PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — Central Cheetahs rose to fourth place for the first time in Super Rugby with a bonus-point 34-22 triumph over struggling Southern Kings on Saturday.
The Bloemfontein team led 13-12 at half-time and after falling behind again, scored three tries in 12 minutes before a 22,000 crowd at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Victory lifted Cheetahs three places and victories against compatriots Northern Bulls and Western Stormers and New Zealand visitors Auckland Blues would guarantee a knock-out stage slot.
Title-holders Waikato Chiefs of New Zealand top the table with 52 points, the Australian Brumbies have 50, the Bulls 48 and the Cheetahs 45 as the league phase enters the final straight.
Traditionally a bottom-half team in the southern hemisphere franchise championship, Cheetahs have tightened a previously porous defence while retaining an eye-pleasing running game.
Kings, third from bottom of the 15-team table with four games left, twice led by six points during the opening half before conceding a try just before the break.
When fly-half Demetri Catrakilis kicked his fifth penalty to give the Super 15 rookies a 15-13 advantage, the Kings could not have imagined they would soon be 19 points adrift.
Scrum-half Piet van Zyl sneaked over the try-line on 51 minutes to trigger the try blitz, centre Johann Sadie crossed far out and elusive left wing Willie le Roux also dotted down.
Sadie scored the first-half try and fly-half Elgar Watts, starting a Super 15 match for only the second time, had a perfect goal-kicking record with four conversions and two penalties.
Catrakilis slotted his five penalty attempts and replacement scrum-half Nicolas Vergallo scored a consolation try just before time which substitute full-back George Whitehead converted.
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