On October 4, Round Two of the 2019-20 Guinness PRO14 campaign takes centre stage – for some teams, it will be all about avoiding a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show whilst others will be chasing redemption.
Seven thrilling clashes are in the offing but the Toyota Cheetahs’ meeting with Ulster Rugby might just prove to be the pick of the bunch – especially when you consider that these two played out a stunning 39-39 draw in the corresponding fixture last season.
It’s the perfect time to take a look back at that thriller at the Toyota Stadium in 2018-19.
Cheetahs bare their claws
In September 2018, an injury-hit Ulster arrived in Bloemfontein up for the fight, losing Will Addison and Craig Gilroy, deepening a crisis instigated by the unavailability of influential scrum-half John Cooney.
There would prove to be little quarter shown by the Cheetahs, who exploded out of the blocks and dotted down inside 80 seconds, Gerhardus Olivier dotting down as the visitors were caught cold.
David Shanahan swung the pendulum back the other way, going over each side of a Tian Schoeman penalty, but Ulster kicked multiple penalties into touch in search of a third try rather than aiming for the posts – and the Cheetahs hit back.
Rabz Maxwane sliced through a flailing Ulster defence and teed up William Small-Smith to score to help make it 17-14 at the break.
Speight and Burns bring a box office finale
A Billy Burns penalty restored parity but when Alan O’Connor was sent to the sin bin with 52 minutes on the clock, the Cheetahs took advantage straight away through Joseph Dweba, who charged over from the back of an inexorable driving maul.
The hosts’ Jacques Du Toit was next to bag a try as the Cheetahs claimed a bonus point, leading 29-20.
But back came a relentless Ulster, Jonny Stewart going over before they were awarded a penalty try for Charles Marais’ ill-discipline right on the Cheetahs line.
The visitors led 32-29 – yet the crescendo was still to come.
The enterprising Maxwane collected Malcolm Jaer’s chip 40 metres out and skipped between two defenders before racing over to put the hosts back in front – a lead extended by Louis Fouche’s 79th-minute penalty from three metres within his own half.
But Ulster had the final say in this cast-iron classic as Henry Speight spun off the back of a maul right by the line and burrowed over under pressure from two tacklers before Burns’ conversion sailed between the posts to tie things up at the death.