Former Bulls prop Pierre Schoeman played an instrumental role in ensuring that it was a perfect Christmas period for the watching Toyota Cheetahs in Pro14 Rugby.
The top of the log clash in Conference A went as per the general expectation, with Leinster winning away against arch rivals Munster at Thomond Park in the late game on Saturday, but the earlier clash between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield would have been of greater interest to Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie and his charges.
The Cheetahs haven’t played now for nearly a month and would not have expected to be returning to action in Italy next week still third on the Conference A log table, meaning in the play-off placings, after seeing less action than their rivals. But that is indeed the case following a dry spell for fourth place Glasgow Warriors.
The Warriors, coached until the end of the current campaign by new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, snuck a narrow win in their home derby against Edinburgh a week before Christmas but Edinburgh reversed that result when they hosted the return derby on Saturday.
Schoeman, an immensely powerful and promising prop who looks set to become an iconic figure in Scottish rugby, was at the forefront of a dominant Edinburgh scrumming display that laid the platform for a 29-19 win. The 25-year-old was a deserved recipient of the man of the match award, with the Edinburgh scrum forcing the issue as they turned over a deficit late in a close match to eventually win with something to spare.
The fact that the Warriors were denied any log points will delight the Cheetahs, who are only two points ahead of the fourth placed Warriors but significantly have two matches in hand. That puts the Cheetahs in a strong position as they come back from their break to play Zebre in Italy this coming Saturday (4 January).
The leading team in the conference, Leinster, are too far ahead to be caught so their 13-6 away win over Munster, coached by former Springbok assistant coach Johan van Graan, won’t bother the Cheetahs. They would though have had an interest in second placed Ulster’s bonus point win over Connacht in another Irish derby match.
Ulster are 10 points ahead of the Cheetahs, meaning two bonus points win, but again the Cheetahs have two games in hand.
The Edinburgh win would have been of interest, in a negative sense, to Isuzu Southern Kings coach Robbi Kempson. His team travels to Edinburgh this week to face Edinburgh and with Edinburgh’s confidence boosted by their good win in front of what was a record Murrayfield crowd for a Pro14 fixture the Kings have a bit of a mountain to climb when they return from their festive season hiatus.
Pro14 Rugby 10th round results
Cardiff Blues 16 Dragons 12
Scarlets 44 Ospreys 0
Ulster 35 Connacht 3
Benetton 36 Zebre 25
Edinburgh 29 Glasgow Warriors 19
Munster 6 Leinster 13