The Blues’ playoff aspirations were extinguished last night as they fell to a 34-13 defeat to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Sir John Kirwan’s men have now suffered five consecutive defeats and have no chance of making it into the top six with one final game remaining against the Chiefs next week.
There was plenty of optimism for Kirwan’s young and exciting new-look squad this season, and early victories over the Hurricanes and Crusaders highlighted what a force the Blues can be when they play to their potential.
However last night the Blues never looked like they were in with a chance. Both the Cheetahs and Blues needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and the Cheetahs simply wanted it more.
“The most disappointing thing is that we didn’t play well at all today, it was one of our worst performances,” Kirwan said.
“We were still in it with eight minutes to go but it was a very disappointing way to end the season when we still had a chance of making the top six.”
With All Black halfback Piri Weepu back in New Zealand nursing a rib injury, Jamison Gibson-Park got a rare start in the number nine jersey and he made the most of his opportunity with a fine try after just five minutes to give the Blues a fantastic start.
From a counter attack, Peter Saili made a break and passed inside for the nippy halfback to cross for the opening try.
Cheetahs first five-eighths Riaan Smit converted his side’s dominance at set piece into points, kicking two penalty goals to give the hosts a narrow 7-6 lead before number eight Phillip Van der Walt came off the back of a tighthead scrum and crashed over the whitewash to extend the home side’s lead.
Baden Kerr and Smit traded penalties to bring the score to 19-10 at the break, and the pair continued to shoot for goal in the second half, but the killer blow came in the final 10 minutes as the Cheetahs ran in two late tries.
Replacement halfback Sarel Pretorius picked up a loose ball that squirted out of a maul and darted over to score in the 73rd minute, before Boom Prinsloo made sure of the final result with a try in the final stages of the game.
The Blues return to New Zealand on Monday night and have one final game against the Chiefs at Eden Park on Saturday.