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Sarel Pretorius came back to haunt the NSW Waratahs as South Africa's Central Cheetahs stretched their winning streak over the struggling Australian side to three games in Sydney on Friday.
The Cheetahs edged out the Waratahs 27-26, scoring three tries to two to follow up their win over the Otago Highlanders in New Zealand last weekend.
Scrum-half Pretorius was the architect behind the Cheetahs' triumph, putting winger Raymond Rule over for the match-winning try 10 minutes from fulltime.
Pretorius was recruited by the Waratahs as their marquee player last year only to be dropped to the bench after a few rounds and then omitted from the 22-man squad altogether.
He later reached a settlement with the Waratahs to be released from the final year of his contract and returned home to play for the Cheetahs.
The Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs had a spectacular start scoring a try in the opening 54 seconds to put the Waratahs back on their heels.
Pretorius dummied and broke clear in the opening seconds and centre Robert Ebersohn benefited from a chip and regather from winger Willie Le Roux to score the shock try.
The Cheetahs were in again in the 17th minute when Rhule stepped his way over for the first of his two tries and fly-half Johan Goosen again converted.
Two penalty goals from scrum-half Brendan McKibbin kept the Waratahs in touch at 14-6 before winger Peter Betham scored off a lineout win when he beat two defenders to score under the crossbar.
McKibbin's conversion left NSW trailing by a point but, after Goosen added a penalty to nudge the Cheetahs four points ahead, but the Waratahs snatched the halftime lead when Adam Ashley-Cooper touched down on the stroke of halftime.
Goosen and McKibbin traded second-half penalty goals before Goosen's conversion of Rule's second five-pointer restored the Cheetahs' advantage.
Another McKibbin penalty in the 73rd minute reduced the deficit to one point but the Waratahs were unable to bridge the gap.
The Waratahs' woes were compounded when they lost Wallabies playmaker Berrick Barnes with a suspected broken wrist early in the first half.
Making his first appearance of the season after missing the opening month of the competition with a knee injury, Barnes took a knock while making a try-saving tackle on giant Cheetahs lock Lodewyk de Jager in the 17th minute.
The Waratahs have to regroup and face the Auckland Blues next weekend in Sydney, with the Cheetahs flying to Perth for their final leg of the Australasian tour against Western Force.