The EP Kings picked up their first win of the season with a thrilling 26-25 victory over the Pumas in Port Elizabeth on Friday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
They did it the hard way. It took them 10 matches but finally they put a notch in the victory column. The celebrations at the final whistle showed just what it meant for this team, but their performance must also be met with caution.
EP underachieved badly on their return to the Currie Cup Premier Division, and this win against the Pumas shouldn't hide that fact. They have a long way to go if they're to compete at Currie Cup level, let alone in Super Rugby.
For 30 minutes or so, it looked like the Kings might pick up their first victory of the season with some ease. They took the game to their opposition up front and showed glimpses of the high-tempo, attacking rugby that Carlos Spencer has looked to implement. Passes stuck, their forwards smashed the Pumas at scrum time and their maul was unstoppable.
The Pumas, in search of a bonus-point victory to put pressure on those above them on the log, were inexplicably slow out of the blocks. They seemed surprised by the Kings enthusiasm and couldn't get a foothold in the match. They weren't helped by poor discipline and sluggishness to the breakdown and were deservedly 19-3 down after 29 minutes.
Giant Mtyanda saw yellow early for a cynical infringement in stopping a Kings maul, and the Pumas struggled in his absence. Tobie Botes and Ronnie Cooke crossed the whitewash for the Kings, with the former making a fine start to the match.
Pumas winger Rosco Speckman was the next to spend time in the bin for a high tackle on Scott van Breda, and Paul Schoeman went in for the Kings' third try from the resulting lineout.
With half-time looming, the Pumas finally found their rhythm. After a period of concerted pressure, Frankie Herne dived over from short range. A couple minutes later Justin van Staden sliced through the Kings' defence after a great break from Speckman, to bring the Pumas within two points at the break.
The Pumas started the second half as they had finished the first. Speckman, who impressed throughout the evening, broke the Kings defence before eventually finding Stefan Watermeyer, who went over to give the Pumas the lead. Van Staden somehow contrived to miss the conversion and it would prove costly.
Leading 25-19 with five minutes to play, that man Speckman broke downfield once again before offloading to JW Bell who lost the ball in contact. The Kings responded with a break of their own through Siviwe Soyizwapi. The ball eventually found its way to Shane Gates, who put a deft grubber through for Scott van Breda to latch onto and go over for the try. Gary van Aswegen slotted the touchline conversion to give the Kings the lead.
A frantic final few minutes ensued, but the Kings held on for the narrowest of victories.
EP Kings – Tries: Tobie Botes, Ronnie Cooke, Paul Schoeman, Scott van Breda. Conversions: Gary van Aswegen (3).
Pumas – Tries: Frankie Herne, Justin van Staden, Stefan Watermeyer. Conversions: Justin van Staden (2). Penalties: Van Staden (2).
EP Kings – 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Ronnie Cooke, 13 Tim Whitehead, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Tobie Botes, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Devin Oosthuizen, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Darron Nell (c), 3 BG Uys, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Simon Kerrod.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Charl du Plessis, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 Steven Cummins, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Jaco Grobler, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa.
Pumas – 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Bell, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rosco Speckman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 RW Kember, 7 Brian Shabangu, 6 Corné Steenkamp (c), 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 DeJay Terblanche, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Uzair Cassiem, 20 Dylon Frylinck, 21 JC Roos, 22 Jerome Pretorius.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images