Munster coach Johann van Graan praised stand-in captain Tyler Bleyendaal and his men for carving out a bonus point win at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein yesterday.
Munster did it the hard way, surrendering a 17 points lead early in the second-half before regrouping in the closing stages and coming from behind to secure their first away win of the season.
Van Graan said that with two dozen players absent through international duty or injuries he needed men to step up and in particular deal with the demands of a tight encounter.
“We spoke in recent weeks about dealing with tight games. I thought we did it well last week against Glasgow and now again against the Cheetahs,” he said.
“That comes from good planning and also from experience. I thought Tyler (Bleyendaal) did that well and then Rory (Scannell) when he came on and took over the captaincy. That’s why you need experience,” added van Graan.
Rory Scannell landed another long-range penalty to secure victory for the second week in a row for Munster.
Scannell, left out of the Ireland squad for the November internationals, followed up his match-winner against Glasgow last weekend with a decisive kick in the closing stages in Bloemfontein.
His effort from 48 metres pushed Munster four in front after a try from Mike Haley restored the lead and it meant that when Cheetahs got a penalty in the final play, they had to go for the corner from inside the 22.
And the Munster pack produced the goods in that final play to turn over possession and claim their first away win since they were victorious in this fixture back in April.
Man of the match Kevin O’Byrne said that it was great to see the likes of Liam Coombes crown his debut with a try on a day when a lot of younger players stepped up to the mark with 24 players unavailable.
“We had a good buzz in the camp all week, a lot of young fellas getting their chance and a new group coming together.
“It’s great that lads can go out to play international matches and young lads come in and fill out the team. That’s a great thing to have and to have such a young coaching ticket behind us that really believes in the younger players is great.”
Munster looked to be coasting to victory when Coombes, a late replacement for Sammy Arnold, scored after 45 minutes to push them 22-5 in front.
Tries from Arno Botha and O’Byrne saw them lead 15-5 at the break but Cheetahs, came storming back with loosehead Ox Nche scoring and hooker Joseph Dweba getting his second try.
The South Africans hit the front 17 minutes from time with a converted try from full-back Rhyno Smith before Haley hit back with the bonus point try and Scannell closed out the win.
Scorers for Cheetahs:
Tries: J Dweba (2), O Nche, R Smith. Cons: T Schoeman (3).
Scorers for Munster:
Tries: A Botha, K O’Byrne, L Coombes, M Haley. Cons: B Johnston (2). Pens: Johnston, R Scannell.
R Smith; W Small-Smith, B Janse van Rensburg, N Lee, R Maxwane (L Fouche 55); T Schoeman, S Venter; O Nche (C Marais 70), J Dweba (R Venter 70), A Coetzee (E de Jager); W Steenkamp, JP du Preez (J Basson 46); G Olivier, J Pokamela (A Nonkontwana 70), A Davis (D Maartens 46).
M Haley; L Coombes, S Daly, T Bleyendaal (R Scannell 55), A Wootton; B Johnston (I Keatley 60), A Mathewson (D Williams 55); J Cronin (J Loughman 55), K O’Byrne (M Sherry 79), S Archer (J Ryan 56); J Kleyn (S O’Connor 55), D O’Shea; F Wycherley, C Cloete, A Botha (G Coombes 62).
M Mitrea (Italy).