South Africa's Cheetahs secured a first Super Rugby playoff berth by beating the Blues 34-13 at the Free State Stadium today.
The Cheetahs moved into unassailable second place in the South African conference and will play in the quarter-finals in a fortnight.
Their win pushed their points tally to 50 but they are guaranteed four more as they have a bye next weekend in the final round of the regular competition, meaning they cannot be caught by the Sharks or Stormers, who both had outside hopes of play-off progress.
The Blues are also out of the chase after a match in which they scored an early try but then spent most of the game on the back foot as they consistently lost the forward battles.
Cheetahs fly-half Riaan Smit laid the basis for his side's success with a 100 percent return from his kicks, scoring a total of 19 points.
The others came from tries scored by Phillip van der Walt midway through the first half and the substitute pair of Sarel Pretorius and Boom Prinsloo in a furious final 10 minutes for the home team.
A try after just five minutes by 21-year-old scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, in the team in place of the injured Piri Weepu, gave the Blues a bright start but it proved one of few highlights for the New Zealanders on a cold afternoon in Bloemfontein.
Van der Walt put the Cheetahs ahead with a 22nd-minute try as he broke from the scrum, spun out of three tackles and stretched over the line to settle home hopes. Smit's accuracy stretched the lead to 19-10 at half-time.
The two sides then traded penalties in the second half before the Cheetahs scored two more tries.
Pretorius darted through a gap after picking up a loose ball that squeezed out of a maul to score in the 73rd minute and Prinsloo was shoved over the line by his team mates in a final display of the Cheetahs' dominance just before the end.
Cheetahs 34 (Sarel Pretorius, Boom Prinsloo, Philip van der Walt tries Riaan Smit 2 cons 5 pens) Blues 13 (Jamison Gibson-Park try Baden Kerr con 2 pens) at Vodacom Park. Referee: Jaco Peyper
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