Cheetahs stay in contention with Pumas win
The Vodacom Free State Cheetahs kept themselves strongly in contention in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division with a 45-30 (half-time 24-16) victory over a determined Barloworld Toyota Pumas team in Witbank on Saturday.
The Cheetahs can be happy that they scored six tries to earn a bonus point against a competitive Pumas outfit that are no walkovers at home.
The Mpumalanga outfit showed enough to suggest their promotion to the Premier Division will not just be for one year.
Pumas flyhalf Ricardo Croy kicked two penalties to the one of opposite number Louis Strydom to put the home side 6-3 up after 12 minutes, before Cheetahs flank and captain Hendro Scholtz picked up the first of his two tries. Strydom converted to put the visitors 10-6 ahead.
By then, the Free Staters were really beginning to put the squeeze on the Pumas, but the Cheetahs backline contrived to throw the ball away, scrumhalf Shaun Venter seizing possession and racing away for a try against the run of play to put the home side 13-10 up after Croy's conversion.
Scholtz, with 91 Currie Cup caps to date, crossed the tryline again in the 33rd minute, Strydom stepping up to kick the nut and make the score 17-13.
Croy brought the Pumas closer with a 36th-minute penalty, but the Cheetahs came back with wave upon wave of attack to close out the first half. Eventually, a multi-layered backline move saw wing Jongikhaya Nokwe streaking over for the try like a sheet of lightning.
Strydom converted and the Cheetahs led 24-16 at the break, which was a fair reflection as the Free Staters had produced most of the attractive rugby.
The famous Free State running rugby was on show to even greater extent in the third quarter as they sealed an impressive victory by scoring three more tries.
Fullback Hennie Daniller was the man with the ball in a massive overlap for the Cheetahs' bonus-point try in the 45th minute, before outside centre Robert Ebersohn took advantage of some hesitant defending to score seven minutes later.
By now there was hardly any of the defensive steel the Pumas had shown in the first half as inside centre Meyer Bosman strolled over without any problems for the sixth try in the 59th minute.
There was no longer any doubt over the result with the Cheetahs leading 45-16 as Strydom converted the Daniller try, and replacement flyhalf Sias Ebersohn converted the others.
The Pumas spent the first 70 minutes of the match largely defending and engaged in damage control, but they showed the other, more expansive side to their capabilities in the last 10 minutes as flank Jacques Coetzee and right wing Ashwin Scott scored tries at the death, both of them converted by Elgar Watts.
It lent some respectability to the scoreboard and meant hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld, whose never-say-die approach made him the most impressive player on the park, at least gained some reward for his efforts.
Barloworld Toyota Pumas - Tries: Shaun Venter, Jacques Coetzee, Ashwin Scott. Conversions: Ricardo Croy, Elgar Watts (2). Penalties: Croy (3).
Vodacom Free State Cheetahs - Tries: Hendro Scholtz (2), Jongikhaya Nokwe, Hennie Daniller, Robert Ebersohn, Meyer Bosman. Conversions: Louis Strydom (4), Sias Ebersohn (2). Penalty: Strydom.