Flyhalf Eddie Fouche accounted for all of the Pumas’ points as they clinched a hard-fought 22-15 over the Cheetahs in Nelspruit on Friday.
Gameflow: This was a stop-start affair with a lot of scrum resets and generally just not an open game. The Pumas conceded an early penalty goal, but seized control on the scoreboard via the accurate boot of Fouche, who slotted four penalties to give the hosts a 12-6 lead at the break. But the teams’ fortunes flipped in the second half as ill-discipline by the Pumas aided the Cheetahs’ comeback effort. The Cheetahs pinned the Pumas back in their own half and feeling the pressure, the home side conceded a string of penalties, of which Ruan Pienaar slotted two to level up the scores at 12-12. Frans Steyn then came off the bench and effortlessly nailed a monster kick from well inside his own half to put his team in the lead. But their joy was short-lived as the Pumas worked their way into an attacking position before Fouche crossed to score the match-winning try.
Caught By The Shot Clock: As one of the new, innovative law variations implemented in this series, a shot clock was introduced forcing kickers to take their kicks within the allotted 60 seconds (for penalty goals) and 90 seconds (for conversions) in an attempt to speed up the game. In this match, Fouche became the first victim of the shot clock when he set his kick in motion well after time had run out on the clock and as a result of his lack of awareness, his attempt amounted to nothing and the Cheetahs were awarded a scrum.
Main Man: Fouche was front and centre of this superb Pumas victory. With the exception of his shot clock blunder, the 23-year-old was the chief catalyst in the Cheetahs’ downfall. He scored all the all the Pumas’ points via a self-converted try and five penalties.
Magic Moment: With seemingly nothing on after fielding a kick at the back, Cheetahs fullback Rhyno Smith nonchalantly launched a massive drop goal from behind the halfway line. And although the kick was executed in hope more than in conviction, Smith’s attempt travelled through the air and just about snuck over the crossbar to make it one of the longest successful drop goals so far this season.
The 180 Degree Turnaround: No, this is not in reference to Lawrence Neisent’s book. It’s in reference to Cheetahs prop Cameron Dawson’s turn of fortunes. The loosehead was scrummed into the ground in the first half, conceding a host of penalties. But in an about-turn after the break, he stepped up to the plate to get his team back into the game. He won three crucial scrum penalties before he was forced off the field with a calf injury in the 48th minute.
Pumas – Try: Eddie Fouché. Conversion: Fouché. Penalties: Fouché (5).
Cheetahs – Penalties: Ruan Pienaar (3). Drop goal: Rhyno Smith.
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Etienne Taljaard, 13 Erich Cronjé, 12 Ali Ngijima, 11 Tapiwa Mafura, 10 Eddie Fouché, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Francois Kleinhans, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Darien Landsberg, 4 Pieter Janse van Vuren (c), 3 Marné Coetzee, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Morgan Naudé.
Subs: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Dewald Maritz, 18 Ruan Kramer, 19 Jaco Willemse, 20 Kwanda Dimaza, 21 Phumzile Maqondwana, 22 Ginter Smuts, 23 Wayne van der Bank, 24 Sebastian de Klerk.
Cheetahs – 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Malcolm Jaer, 13 Chris Smit, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Craig Barry, 10 Reinhardt Fortuin, 9 Ruan Pienaar (c), 8 Jacques Potgieter, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Cameron Dawson.
Subs: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Rosko Specman.