The Pumas held on to second place in the Currie Cup by beating the Free State Cheetahs 17-31 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday
The team from Nelspruit still find themselves among the top teams on the log after producing a well-rounded performance to beat a Cheetahs side that itself has been gaining good momentum in recent weeks.
The Cheetahs put the Pumas under pressure from the get-go, with a botched kick-off leaving the hosts in the visitors’ half.
A penalty brought much-needed relief for the Pumas and they in turn produced a stellar start to underline that running rugby would be the order of the day.
Equally matched on attack and defence, it was the scrums that separated the sides, with the Pumas dominating this facet of play from the start. They drew momentum from it, but good defence by the Cheetahs denied them.
The Pumas drew first blood in the 18th minute when centre Hennie Skorbinski rounded off a well-planned attack to score. Flyhalf Justin van Staden converted to give the visitors a seven-point lead after a hard-fought opening 20 minutes.
Van Staden kicked a number of useful penalties shortly afterwards to stretch the lead to 13 points after the Cheetahs infringed in the breakdown area. The Cheetahs are dangerous from turn-over possession, as centre JP du Plessis’ try in the 32nd minute showed.
Giving away possession, the Pumas paid the price with Du Plessis sprinting down the touchline to dot down for the home side. Flyhalf Pieter-Steyn de Wet converted.
This reduced the points deficit to six, but Van Staden opened it up again as the Cheetahs’ discipline again came up short. At half-time the visitors led 16-7.
The Pumas started the second half with as much ambition as they had shown in the first, but the Cheetahs also seemed more motivated, no doubt after a stern talking-to from coach Rory Duncan at the break.
The Pumas continued their dominance of the scrums and forced several penalties that allowed them to relieve some of the pressure applied by the Cheetahs.
But the hosts kept on coming, with scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius scoring from the breakdown area after beating at least five Pumas’ defenders. De Wet kicked the conversion to reduce the visitors’ lead to two points.
The Cheetahs’ deficit opened to five points when Van Staden kicked another penalty in the 58th minute. De Wet countered with a three-pointer of his own, bringing the hosts within two points of the visitors once more.
Some aerial ping-pong followed before Pumas’ winger Rosco Spekman stepped through the Cheetahs’ defenders in the 72nd minute to score. Replacement flyhalf JC Roos kicked the conversion.
Cheetahs’ winger Rayno Benjamin’s yellow card five minutes from full-time did not do his side any favours, and the Pumas’ replacement lock Marius Coetzer crossed for a final try. Roos failed to convert, but the try put the result beyond doubt.
Final Score Free State Cheetahs 17 (7) Pumas 31 (16)
Free State Cheetahs
Tries: JP du Plessis, Sarel Pretorius.
Conversions: Pieter-Steyn de Wet (2)
Penalties: De Wet
Tries: Hennie Skorbinski, Rosco Spekman, Marius Coetzer.
Conversions : Justin van Staden, JC Roos
Penalties: Van Staden (4)
Free State Cheetahs
15 Clayton Blommetjies ,14 Rayno Benjamin ,13 JP Du Plessis ,12 Francois Venter (vc) ,11 Raymond Rhule ,10 Pieter-Steyn De Wet ,9 Sarel Pretorius ,8 Jean Cook ,7 Neil Claassen,6 Tienie Burger ,5 Francois Uys ,4 Henco Venter ,3 Dolph Botha ,2 Torsten ( c ) Van Jaarsveld ,1 Kevin Stevens
Replacements:16 AJ Le Roux ,17 George Marich ,18 Werner Lourens ,19 Vincent Jobo ,20 Shaun Venter ,21 Willie Du Plessis ,22 Joubert Engelbrecht
15 JW Bell, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Hennie Skorbinski, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Dylon Frylinck, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Corne Steenkamp (c), 5 Giant Mtyanda, 4 Frikkie Spies, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Frankie Herne, 17 DeJay Terblanche, 18 Marius Coetzer, 19 Jaco Bouwer, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 JC Roos, 22 Stefan Watermeyer.