The Cheetahs said goodbye to Super Rugby with a narrow 21-20 win over the Southern Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The match was the Cheetahs' and Kings' final Super Rugby match after both sides were axed from the competition in favour of a 15-team format next season.
The Kings dominated play for most of the match and they had a 20-6 lead with less than 15 minutes left in the match.
However, tries from Clinton Swart and Raymond Rhule and a conversion and penalty from Niel Marais helped the Cheetahs edge the result in the end.
The Cheetahs took an early in the game via a Fred Zeilinga penalty before the Kings started to dominate play in front of their home fans.
The game's first try came in the 20th minute when Kings' wing Makazole Mapimpi was awarded a five-pointer in the corner after a lengthy TMO decision. Flyhalf Lionel Cronje converted the score for a 7-3 lead.
The Kings then ensured that they went into the break with a fairly comfortable lead when their other wing Wandile Mjekevu crashed through the Cheetahs' defence from close range to score his team's second try of the match.
Cronje missed the easy conversion and it was 12-3 in favour of the Kings at half-time.
The home side continued to look the better of the two teams in the early part of the second half and they were rewarded when centre Berton Klaasen put big lock Lubabalo Mtyanda into space to race away for his team's third try in the 44th minute. Again, Cronje could not add the extras when called upon.
Zeilinga got the Cheetahs' first points of the second half with a penalty in the 52nd minute before Cronje restored his side's 14-point lead in the 63rd minute with a penalty of his own.
However, it was all Cheetahs in the final 15 minutes with the tries from Swart and Rhule bringing the visitors closer before Marais put them in a winning position with his 75th-minute penalty.
Man of the match: Lubabalo Mtyanda and Thembelani Bholi both had a few strong carries for the Kings in a scrappy match. However, the award goes to Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule for a good all-round performance and for scoring a crucial try as well.
For Southern Kings:
Tries: Mapimpi, Mjekevu, Mtyanda
Tries: Swart, Rhule
Con: N Marais
Pens: Zeilinga 2, N Marais
Southern Kings: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (captain), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Masixole Banda, 23 Waylon Murray.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Daniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Chris Dry, 22 Ruan van Rensburg, 23 Niel Marais.
Referee: Shuhei Kubo
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Shaun Veldsman