Pumas make statement

The Pumas picked up their first away win of the season after defeating the Free State Cheetahs 31-17 in Bloemfontein on Saturday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.

Coming into this one the Pumas had won three from four, all of them coming as they did in Nelspruit. The win in Bloemfontein is their biggest statement yet, not only because of its geographical location, but because of the manner with which they outmuscled the Cheetahs on their own turf.

It was the Pumas who opened the scoring after the impressive Renaldo Bothma punched a hole in the Cheetahs' midfield defence, before offloading for Hennie Skorbinski to go over.

Speaking in the buildup to the game, coach Jimmy Stonehouse made no attempt to hide his intentions to attack the Cheetahs at scrum time. His ploy proved effective as, during a scrappy first half the Pumas were awarded nine penalties, with a fair share coming at the scrums. Justin van Staden continued his good form with the boot, kicking three penalties as the Pumas enjoyed a healthy 16-7 lead at the break.

The Cheetahs were bullied up front and starved of possession for long periods, although they remained a threat on the counter-attack. Their sole points came courtesy of a flowing backline move that resulted in a JP du Plessis try.

Sarel Pretorius brought the Cheetahs back into the match early in the second half, grabbing a try after some generous Pumas defence, before Van Staden and Pieter-Steyn de Wet traded penalties as both teams kept the scoreboard ticking over.

It would be the Pumas who would strike next through a moment of individual brilliance from Rosko Speckman. Receiving the ball on the left after more solid work from the Pumas forwards, Speckman jinked inside before racing away to put the result beyond doubt.

Marius Coetzer wrapped things up with a couple minutes to go, as the Pumas' dominance was rewarded with a third try.

The victory lifts the Pumas to second on the log and will no doubt give them the belief that they can continue to push for a play-off spot.

FS Cheetahs – Tries: JP Du Plessis, Sarel Pretorius. Conversions: Pieter-Steyn de Wet (2). Penalty: De Wet.
Pumas – Tries: Hennie Skorbinski, Rosko Speckman, Marius Coetzer. Conversions: Justin van Staden, JC Roos. Penalties: Van Staden (4).

FS Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Francois Venter, 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 van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Kevin Stevens.
Subs: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 George Marich, 18 Werner Lourens, 19 Vincent Jobo, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Joubert Engelbrecht.

Pumas – 15 JW Bell, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Hennie Skorbinski, 11 Rosko Speckman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Dylon Frylinck, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Corné Steenkamp (c), 5 Giant Mtyanda, 4 Frikkie Spies, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Frankie Herne, 17 DeJay Terblanche, 18 Marius Coetzer, 19 Jaco Bouwer, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 JC Roos, 22 Coenie van Wyk.

Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images