Full report on Friday's Guinness PRO14 clash in Bloemfontein.
The Ospreys will head home from South Africa with northing to show for their efforts after suffering a fourth consecutive defeat.
They scored three tries, from Rhys Webb Kieron Fonotia and Dan Evans, but despite taking the lead just a minute or so before half-time, they were blown away after the break as the Cheetahs pace and Ospreys errors took the game away from the visitors, the hosts touching down six times in total.
Dan Biggar got the action underway in a slightly surreal atmosphere, the 46,000 capacity Toyota Stadium almost empty in Welsh like weather conditions following a pre-match downfall.
It was the hosts who threatened in the opening stages and they took the lead with just a fraction over seven minutes on the clock. A barnstorming run up the right wing by Raymond Rhule took the Cheetahs into the Ospreys 22 where they were awarded a line out, hooker Torsten Van Jaarsveld peeling off from the maul for the simplest of finishes.
Ernst Stapelberg missed with the conversion, but he made no mistake four minutes later with a penalty from 40m, the Ospreys going off their feet at the ruck.
Try number two for the Cheetahs seemed odds on as Makazola Mapimpi ran back a 22m drop out at pace, side stepping Keelan Giles to give himself what looked a simple run-in. Fortunately for the Ospreys, Evans was alert to the danger, getting across to halt the winger.
The Ospreys had struggled to get a foothold in the game of any kind and they found themselves falling further behind on the midway point of the half as Van Jaarsveld galloped over for his second try, finishing off a stunning counter attack launched from the Cheetahs 22. Mapimpi raced upfield before linking with Stapelberg who supplied the scoring pass to his hooker before adding the extras to put his team 15 points clear.
The response from the visitors was instant and they were on the scoreboard within minutes, showing good patience from a lineout on the left to work themselves into a good position infield where Webb used his strength to power over from close range. Biggar converted from in front of the posts.
The visitors were buoyed by that score and began to enjoy more possession and territory. Only a high tackle by Oupa Mohoje halted Scott Otten’s progress up the right flank after he had linked well with Webb.
A series of penalties enabled the Ospreys to maintain the pressure inside the opposition 22 and just passed the half hour they grabbed their second try of the match, Biggar with a lovely grubber behind the Cheetahs defence and Fonotia winning the race to ground it. Biggar’s successful conversion meant the deficit was now just a solitary point.
As the Ospreys continued to enjoy the upper hand an offence on the ground by the Cheetahs gave them a shot at goal 25m out and Biggar made no mistake, putting his team in front for the first time with just 80 seconds remaining until half-time.
However, the Ospreys made a hash of the restart and with a knock-on advantage in their favour the Cheetahs spun the ball wide where the ever-dangerous Mapimpi produced an excellent finish in the corner, despite the best efforts of Giles.
Stapelberg’s touchline conversion with time up meant the home team headed down the tunnel with a five-point lead.
HALF-TIME: CHEETAHS 22 OSPREYS 17
The Ospreys were fortunate to survive an almighty scare right at the start of the second half, Jay Baker failing to deal with the kick off and conceding a lineout close to the tryline.
As the Cheetahs pack tried to rumble towards the line, the defence was able to hold firm, eventually winning a penalty to clear to halfway thanks to good work from Baker, atoning for his error.
Biggar was then able to reduce the deficit to two points with a simple penalty in front of the posts following Ospreys pressure in and around the 22.
Stapelberg responded for the home team just two minutes later with a three pointer from close to halfway after play had been brought back for a high tackle in midfield by Guy Mercer on Rhule.
With three tries already in the bag, the Cheetahs then spurned a simple three points to go to the corner and were rewarded with the try number four, and with it the bonus point, as Paul Schoeman dotted down from the forward drive. Stapelberg was on target with his kick again, taking Cheetahs 12 clear with a little over 20 minutes still to play.
Good work from James King to steal Cheetahs ball at the lineout put the Ospreys on the front foot and they soon had a numerical advantage, Van Jaarsveld sent to the bin for killing the ball.
Despite being a man short it was the Cheetahs who scored next, a scrum in midfield providing an attacking platform and, after the hosts made ground through the heart of the Ospreys defence, Mapimpi did exceptionally well to beet Keelan Giles and a cross-kick in the air for his second of the match. The try went unconverted, but Cheetahs now led 37-20.
Evans then did well to score in the corner, the try confirmed by the TMO, despite best efforts of scrum half Tian Meyer. Biggar missed the conversion which meant the score was 37-25 with seven minutes to play.
To their credit the Ospreys kept going into added time, looking for a score that would have secured them two losing bonus points but it wasn’t to be as the ball was lost on halfway allowing the home team to take full advantage, skipper Francois Venter rounding off the evening with try number six, William Small-Smith converting.