The Cheetahs were far too strong for the Leopards and walked all over their opponents, claiming a thumping 40-12 victory in their Currie Cup clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Leopards, who narrowly escaped relegation after failing to win a single game last season, were never really in the game thanks to an explosive start from their hosts.
The visitors put up some resistance with two tries, but the Cheetahs, semifinalists last year, ran rampant, breaching the tryline six times in their convincing victory.
Tighthead prop WP Nel got the Cheetahs off to a solid start with a third minute try, and they never looked back as they trampled the visitors in front of their home crowd.
Former Bulls and Pumas wing Vainon Willis dotted down for the Leopards in the 29th minute, but the Leopards were never really in with a shout as the Cheetahs stormed to a convincing early lead and secured the bonus point in the first half.
Five Cheetahs players - Nel, Andries Strauss, Rayno Benjamin, Corne Uys and Philip Burger - all stormed over in the first half to give the hosts a clear-cut advantage heading into the break.
The home side held a 35-5 advantage at half-time, and while neither team managed to add much more in the second forty minutes, the Cheetahs held on for a dominant win.
Prop BG Uys barged over for the visitors in the 67th minute, securing the first points for either team in the second half, with flyhalf Clayton Durand converting but it was too little too late.
Cheetahs substitute Philip Snyman dotted down with four minutes remaining in the match to seal the victory at the Free State Stadium.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Nel, Strauss, Benjamin, Uys, Burger, Snyman
Cons: Ebersohn 2, Smit 3
For the Leopards:
Tries: Willis, Uys
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Corné Uys, 12 Andries Strauss (captain), 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Pieter Labuschagné, 6 Johan Wessels, 5 Waltie Vermeulen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Michael van Vuuren, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 PW van Vuuren, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Izak van der Westhuizen, 19 Pieter Myburgh, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Philip Burger.
Leopards: 15 George Tossel, 14 Danie Dames, 13 Joubert Engelbreght, 12 Charl Weideman, 11 Vainon Willis, 10 Clayton Durand, 9 Wesly Moolman, 8 Morne Hanekom, 7 MB Lusaseni, 6 Renaldo Bothma, 5 Ruan van Heerden, 4 Brendon Snyman, 3 Stefan Bezuidenhoud, 2 Gavin Williamson, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 Stoffel Duvenhage, 17 Berend Botha, 18 Thabo Mamojela, 19 Christo van Niekerk, 20 Theo van Wyk, 21 Walter Venter, 22 Hoffman Maritz.
Referee: Jaftha Jason
Assistant referees: Joey Salmans, Fumanekile Yamile
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