Benjamin took the field as a late replacement and caught a pass from scrum-half Sarel Pretorius to score the try that gave the Cheetahs hope of prolonging their best-ever season.
Smit’s powerful kick arced towards the posts but, at the last second, drifted away and brushed the left-hand post.
In a match in which goal-kicks were decisive, Wallabies inside centre Christian Leali’ifano shrugged off two early misses to nail four penalties for the Brumbies, who will face the Pretoria-based Bulls in next weekend’s semi-finals. Leali’ifano missed two of his first three shots at goal, then landed three in succession as the Brumbies relied on penalties to beat the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs, who were appearing in a play-off match for the first time.
Scrum-half Nic White also kicked a long-range penalty for the Brumbies, who won the most recent of their two Super Rugby titles in 2004.
The Christchurch-based Crusaders will play the Hamilton-based Chiefs, the defending champions, in an all-New Zealand semi-final after their 38-9 win over the Queensland Reds on Saturday. yesterday’s match at Canberra didn’t come close to matching the high standard set by the seven-time champions Crusaders in their four tries to nil win over the Reds the day before.
The Cheetahs looked stage-struck for the first 15 minutes of the match but came alive when centre Johann Sadie scored their first try in the 16th minute, giving them a 5-3 lead. The lead changed hands three times before White’s long-distance penalty in the 47th minute put the Brumbies ahead 9-8. They then extended that lead to 15-8 with penalties from Leali’ifano in the 58th and 66th minutes.
But the Cheetahs refused to let the match get away and attacked relentlessly through the last five minutes.
They had the chance of several kicks at goal in the last five minutes but rejected that to find the converted try that would take the match to extra time. With time up on the clock at Canberra Stadium, Pretorius engineered the try for Benjamin that allowed Smit his chance that ultimately ended in failure.
Brumbies captain, Ben Mowen, said: “You always worry when a South African guy’s having a kick at goal because they’re usually dead on the money. But, fortunately for us, it went our way there.”