Pumas lock Rudi Mathee scored a 79th-minute try to secure a 37-37 draw with the Free State Cheetahs in Nelspruit on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Three log points ensure that the Cheetahs will enter the final weekend of round-robin matches in fourth position. The Pumas, who needed a bonus-point win to keep their semi-final hopes alive, are now also-rans.
After trailing 13-3, the Cheetahs upped the ante to outscore their hosts five tries to four in a game that started off slowly, but improved as it went on.
The Cheetahs struck a double blow to lead for the first time when wing Sergeal Petersen and blindside flanker Oupa Mohoje both scored converted efforts inside the space of a minute.
Van Staden managed to make it one-point game, but centre Francois Venter’s try on the stroke of half-time put the visitors 24-16 up.
The slightly better second half saw both sides score two tries apiece. However, the difference was that Van Staden nailed all his conversions, while Ebersohn and his replacement Niel Marais skewed theirs.
With the game on a knife’s edge at 34-30 in favour of the Cheetahs, Marais made up for his earlier error with a penalty to buy some breathing space for his team.
The Pumas refused to give up, though, and when Rayno Benjamin received his second yellow card for foul play, they seized the man-over opportunity. Replacement lock Mathee powered over the tryline, and Van Staden converted the pressure kick to draw level.
Pumas – Tries: Jaco Bouwer, De-Jay Terblance, Marnus Schoeman, Rudi Mathee. Conversions: Justin van Staden (4). Penalties: Van Staden (3).
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Sergeal Petersen, Oupa Mohoje, Francois Venter, De Wet Kruger, Freddie Ngoza. Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (3). Penalties: Ebersohn, Niel Marais.
Pumas – 15 John-Wessel Bell, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 Hoffmann Maritz, 12 Stefan Watermeyer (c), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Jason-Colin Fraser, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Jaco Bouwer, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Rudi Mathee, 19 Marnus Schoeman, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Hennie Skorbinski, 22 Bernardo Botha.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 De Wet Kruger, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Reniel Hugo, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Teunis Nieuwoudt.
Subs: 16 Chase Morison, 17 BG Uys, 18 Willem Serfontein, 19 Freddy Ngoza, 20 Ruan van Rensburg, 21 Niel Marais, 22 AJ Coertzen.
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images