The Cheetahs thrashed the Pumas 53-31 on their return to Super Rugby at Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein.
Malcolm Jaer scored a hat-trick and Blitzbokke legend Rosco Specman grabbed a brace as the Cheetahs ran riot in the City of Roses.
The eight-tries-to-four mauling of the outmatched and outmuscled Pumas saw Hawies Fourie’s men open their Super Rugby Unlocked account with a convincing bonus-point win.
Ruan Pienaar scored a try and kicked 11 points from the tee in one of the easiest outings he’ll have in a while.
Junior Pokomela scored before Pienaar’s try. Thereafter, Small-Smith and Jaer dotted down in the second half as the hosts opened up a formidable 53-10 lead.
Ginter Smuts, Daniel Maartens, Le Roux Roets and Neil Maritz all scored in the last quarter as the home side slowed the tempo.
This was scant consolation for Corne Steenkamp’s beleaguered men because the hosts were already on the bus when the tries came.
It will be a long season for the Pumas if they don’t shore up their porous defence and ill-discipline at the breakdown.
Fourie’s men, however, will take some stopping.
The Cheetahs stormed into a 41-3 halftime lead playing thrilling running rugby.
Braces from Jaer and Specman, who could have had a first-half hat-trick had he not, generously, gifted captain Pienaar a try as the hooter sounded.
Pokomela scored between the two wingers’ doubles to go with Pienaar’s four conversions and 10th-minute penalty.
Eddie Fouché kicked a sixth-minute penalty to make it 7-3, but that was all the pulverised Pumas had to show for their efforts.
Cheetahs take their foot off the gas as Pumas outscore the home team four tries to two.
Specman did not return after the break because of a tight hamstring. His replacement William Small-Smith scored soon after the restart after Steyn’s cut-out pass to continue the mauling.
Pienaar added his fifth conversion, but a mistake from the captain led to Smuts scoring from a botched scrum inside the Cheetahs’ 22.
Fouché’s drop-kicked conversion saw the Pumas reach double digits as they trailed 48-10.
The game went its longest period without a try (12 minutes) before Jaer claimed his hat-trick – and half-century – after a well-worked backline move from a scrum.
Maartens crashed over on 57 minutes for his team’s second as the game descended into an arm wrestle.
Louis van der Westhuizen was yellow carded after a dangerous tackle on Maartens 10 minutes later.
Roets – after a draining 16-phase attack by the Pumas – crashed over with three minutes remaining for his team’s third.
With time running out, Maritz scored a wonderful solo try from the halfway line, jinking through tackles before racing away to score under the posts.
The Cheetahs thought they had a try after the hooter, but the TMO ruled out the score for an accidental offside in the build-up.
Final Score: Cheetahs 53 (41) Pumas 31 (3)
Tries – Jaer (3), Pokomela, Specman (2), Pienaar, Small-Smith
Pen – Pienaar
Con – Pienaar (5)
Cards – L. Van der Westhuizen (Yellow, 67′)
Tries – Smuts, Maartens, Roets, Maritz
Pen – Fouché
Con – Fouché (4)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 1: Griffin Colby
Assistant Ref 2: Ben Crouse
TMO: Stuart Berry
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Malcolm Jaer, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Aidon Davis, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 William Small-Smith
15 Devon Williams, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Wayne van der Bank, 12 Ryan Nell (captain), 11 Neil Maritz, 10 Eddie Fouché, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Kwanda Dimaza, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Morgan Naudé
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Liam Hendricks, 18 Dewald Maritz, 19 Darrien Landsberg, 20 Jeandré Rudolph, 21 Dian Badenhorst, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Ruwellyn Isbell