Pumas book place in final
The Steval Pumas ramped up their performance in the second half to beat the SWD Eagles 52-33 (halftime 20-16), with six tries, and cruise into the final of the Absa Currie Cup First Division at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday evening.
The scoreline is somewhat unjust to the Eagles, who threw everything they had at the unbeaten log leaders, taking the lead at 30-23 with two quick tries at the start of the second half.
But that was when the Pumas woke up and went back to basics, building the phases and using their dynamic tight five to break the Eagles’ defence.
They ran in four tries from that point to reaffirm their challenge for a spot in the Premier Division next year.
Perhaps it was the sense of occasion which got to them, for as coach Jimmy Stonehouse admitted: “Winning 14 out of 14 means nothing. This is the one that counts now.”
But the Eagles flew at them, opening the scoring in the fourth minute with a fine move down the line which was touched down by Clinton Wagman.
The Pumas’ innate ability, and the amazing skill of former Blitzbok Rosco Speckman, kept them in the game, but they will rue the chances they literally let slip though their hands.
Although Corne Steenkamp benefited from a great break from Speckman, at least two tries went begging.
It was particularly damaging because they occurred when Eagles captain Kabamba Floors was on the sidelines, cooling off after a rush of blood saw him headbutt a Pumas player. By the time he came back, the hosts had advanced their cause by only three points.
Nevertheless, Speckman, named man of the match, again shattered the Eagles line to put Stefan Watermeyer in at the corner and they started looking comfortable at 20-16 at halftime, despite relinquishing the initiative through turnovers and poor discipline which enabled Justin van Staden to keep the scoreboard moving.
But the hosts were knocked back in the second half by two quick tries from Anver Venter and Alshaun Bock, the recipient of a wonderful offload from hooker Martin Ferreira, taking his try count in this campaign to 17.
The Pumas have come from behind before in this tournament, and have honed the art of driving home their advantage.
They have a fine collection of forwards who can carry the ball, and a lively scrumhalf in Faf de Klerk, but it was Speckman who got the ball rolling again, opening the way for Coenie van Wyk.
Then it became a bit of a procession, with RW Kember, Renaldo Bothma and Doppies le Roux all crossing the line.
Carl Bezuidenhout missed the last conversion but still notched up 22 points to remain way ahead as the top scorer of the season with 198 points.
Steval Pumas- Tries: Corne Steenkamp, Stefan Watermeyer, Coenie van Wyk, RW Kember, Renaldo Bothma, Christo le Roux. Conversions: Carl Bezuidenhout (5). Penalties: Bezuidenhout (4).
SWD Eagles: Tries: Clinton Wagman, Anver Venter, Alshaun Bock. Conversions: Justin van Staden (3). Penalties: Van Staden (4).