A semi-final spot for the Free State Cheetahs – and the Boland Kavaliers avoided the wooden spoon.

That much was the story in Bloemfontein Saturday when the Cheetahs beat the Kavaliers 50-40 (half-time 21-14) in the teams’ final Absa Currie Cup pool match of the season.

Defending Cup champions, the Cheetahs, cannot feel too impressed with their effort. Their problem all season, playing without establishing proper structures from the set pieces, again resulted in sometimes mindless passing of the ball, only tO result in turnovers and gifting points to the opposition.

Cheetahs’ fans may well wonder what has happened to their team’s structured backline play, the foundation from which they have dominated the competition the past few years. Going into the semis against the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versveld next week, a lot of hard work awaits the team from Bloemfontein.

In a match that provided 13 tries, it is difficult to single out players for their brilliance, but if the Cheetahs can take one thing out of this game, it is that they should look after flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter. He may not be the finished article yet, but given play time at the highest level, could soon see him challenge for higher honours.

On the Kavaliers side, they have in Elgar Watts, also a flyhalf with exceptional ability and should be looked after.

Getting back to the nitty gritty, however, one has to look at how it was possible for a lowly side such as the Kavaliers to put 40 points on the scoreboard against the defending Currie Cup champions. A team which surely must have genuine aspirations of succesfully defending their title.

If their performance and strategy, with an eye of meeting the Blue Bulls in the semi-final, was only to move the ball away from the Bulls’ forwards, they are in for a rude awakening. Simply passing the ball is not committing defenders. That the Kavaliers proved. The Bulls will laugh all the way to the bank.

In short, on the evidence of the Cheetahs’ performance this season, they have lost the “tag” as the provider of future stars to “other” provinces and, unless a major change in their game plan and excecution in their coming semi-final is implemented, their reign as champions is sure to end.