The Pumas claimed a well-deserved 28-21 win over the Cheetahs in Nelspruit on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
It may not have been pretty from the Pumas, but it sure was effective. They outscored their opponents by three tries to two and were full value for their victory.
For Rory Duncan and the Cheetahs, it's back to the drawing board. Outplayed up front and guilty of butchering a number of try-scoring opportunities, the Cheetahs can only improve on this performance.
Having said that, they won't be the only team to lose in Nelspruit this season against a dogged Pumas outfit.
The hosts caused all sorts of problems for their opposition, especially in the scrums. Their forwards were immense, with Namibian eighthman Renaldo Bothma producing a particularly brutal performance.
He carried the ball with devastating effect and played a vital role in the match-winning try.
It was the Cheetahs who got things started in the fourth minute, with Rayno Benjamin capitalising on some weak cover defence to open the scoring. The hosts responded with a penalty from flyhalf Justin van Staden before some quick thinking from JW Bell saw the fullback go over for the Pumas' first try.
Captain Corné Steenkamp grabbed a second for the Pumas after Willie du Plessis had levelled things up at 10-10. Du Plessis added two more penalties, as the visitors headed into the break 16-15 to the good.
While the Cheetahs made all the running in the early part of the second half, it was the Pumas who hit the front after Sarel du Plessis saw yellow for needlessly kicking the ball away.
The Pumas' third try came in controversial fashion as JW Jonker latched onto a loose ball that was tapped back by Renaldo Bothma to go over.
Bothma looked to be in touch, but the TMO ruled that because he had only tapped the ball back, rather than controlling it, the try would stand. It must be noted that by the letter of the law, the correct decision was made.
The try gave the Pumas a comfortable buffer and despite a late Benjamin try, the hosts did enough to hold on and get their campaign up and running with a victory.
Pumas – Tries: JW Bell, Corné Steenkamp, JW Jonker. Conversions: Justin van Staden (2). Penalties: Van Staden (3).
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Rayno Benjamin (2). Conversion: Willie du Plessis. Penalties: Du Plessis (3).
Pumas – 15 JW Bell, 14 Ruwellyn Isbell, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rosco Spekman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corné Steenkamp (c), 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Frikkie Spies, 3 Dejay Terblanche, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Vincent Koch.
Subs: 16 Frankie Herne, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 19 Uzair Cassiem, 20 Sinoyuvo Nyoka, 21 JC Roos, 22 Jerome Pretorius.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 AJ Coertzen, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Neil Claasen, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Kevin Stevens.
Subs: 16 Hercu Liebenburg, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Renier Botha, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 JP du Plessis.
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images