Toyota Cheetahs proved they will be tricky customers in this season’s EPCR Challenge Cup as they ran a strong Emerging Ireland team close in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

The tourists, boasting a side consisting of several established stars who featured in last season’s Heineken Champions Cup, had to work hard for their 21-14 win.

Toyota Cheetahs, who kick off their maiden EPCR Challenge Cup campaign at Section Paloise on December 10, almost made the perfect start as Daniel Kasende dotted down in the corner, but his effort was chalked off for a foot in touch.

Ulster Rugby scrum-half Nathan Doak, who tallied 16 points in four Heineken Champions Cup appearances last season, then crossed with 20 minutes played to hand Emerging Ireland the lead.

The South African outfit turned the screw, however, and earned a penalty try which also saw flanker Cian Prendergast, who started all six of Connacht Rugby’s Heineken Champions Cup games in 2021-22, sin-binned.

Leinster Rugby lock Jack McCarthy was also yellow carded as Toyota Cheetahs piled on the pressure, but the sides went into the break locked at 7-7.

Munster Rugby full-back Shane Daly and Leinster centre Jamie Osbourne both scored superb tries as Emerging Ireland enjoyed an excellent start to the second half, but their opponents would launch a barrage of attacks over the final 20 minutes.

Louis van der Westhuizen and Reinhardt Fortuin both came close to scoring before Toyota Cheetahs were awarded a second penalty try with five minutes to go.

And although they were ultimately unable to turn the game around, their performance against a talented team served as a reminder of the quality they will bring to the EPCR Challenge Cup this season.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Benetton Rugby came out on top of an all-EPCR Challenge Cup encounter with Dragons RFC in the United Rugby Championship (URC).

The Italian hosts went over through Giacomo Nicotera, Lorenzo Cannone, Edoardo Padovani and Mattia Bellini, while Tomas Albornoz kicked 14 points.

Rio Dyer and Steff Hughes were the try-scorers for Dragons, who have won once in their first four URC games of the season.