Justin van Staden scored 18 points as the Pumas clinched a 43-36 bonus-point win against the Golden Lions in Nelspruit on Sunday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
In a scrappy and unstructured Currie Cup game at the Mbombela Stadium, the Pumas ground out a thrilling victory as the Lions pushed them all the way.
The match was played at a high tempo throughout the 80 minutes, but the first quarter was especially frenetic as 34 combined points were scored.
The hosts dominated the scrum and finished off their scoring opportunities well, but because of their wretched defence, the Lions were able to stay in the contest. But the Pumas took complete control of the game in the final 15 minutes when they scored twice and then shut out the Lions at the other end.
Halfbacks Stefan Ungerer and Van Staden provided great impetus to the Pumas’ attack and it paid dividends as they ran in six tries, with fullback Gerrit Smith bagging a brace. Shaun Reynolds was the Lions’ chief catalyst as he scored a try, coupled with four conversions and a penalty, to keep them in the match.
Two tries and a penalty either way locked the scores up at 17-17 after just 20 minutes. But the Pumas scored their third try when flank Francois Kleinhans burst over the line, with Van Staden adding the conversion for a 24-17 lead at the break.
Replacement scrumhalf Bradley Thain, who came on for the injured Marco Janse van Vuren, showed great strength to force his way over the tryline early in the second half for a converted effort which levelled the scores again.
But the Pumas’ halfback-axis again caused trouble for the Lions. Ungerer split the Lions defence with a darting run from a quick tap penalty and Van Staden was on hand to finish off. The Lions would hit back with two quick tries by wing Aphiwe Dyantyi and Ashlon Davids to regain the lead with 19 minutes remaining.
But the hosts were not done yet. Centre Hennie Skorbinski went over for a brilliant individual effort and Van Staden landed the conversion to hand his team a slender two-point advantage. With the game on a knife edge, the Pumas got over for their sixth and final try and it was the one that got the longest applause. Smith finished off spectacularly in the right corner as he latched on to Van Staden’s kick pass while airborne and propelled himself over the line despite the attentions of the Lions’ Davids.
There was still a chance for the Lions to score again, but the Pumas defended their line in the dying moments of the match with a renewed vigour that was lacking during the early stages.
The Lions did earn themselves two bonus points for finishing within the seven-point losing margin and scoring more than four tries.
Pumas – Tries: Gerrit Smith (2), Nardus van der Walt, Francois Kleinhans, Justin van Staden, Hennie Skorbinski. Conversions: Van Staden (5). Penalty: Van Staden.
Golden Lions – Tries: Stokkies Hanekom, Shaun Reynolds, Bradley Thain, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Ashlon Davids. Conversions: Reynolds (4). Penalty: Reynolds.
Pumas – 15 Gerrit Smith, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 Hennie Skorbinski (cc), 12 Ryan Nell, 11 Ruwellyn Isbell, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Carel Greeff, 7 Nardus van der Walt, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Hugo Kloppers (cc), 4 Jeremy Jordaan, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Mark Pretorius, 1 Mona Kwezi.
Subs: 16 Frank Herne, 17 DJ Terblanche, 18 Marne Coetzee, 19 Jannie Stander, 20 Lambert Groenewald, 21 Reynier van Rooyen, 22 Sias Ebersohn.
Golden Lions – 15 Ashlon Davids, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Jarryd Sage, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Marco Janse van Vuren, 8 Ryan Kankowski (c), 7 Jano Venter, 6 James Venter, 5 Rhyno Herbst, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Andrew Beerwinkel, 2 Pieter Jansen 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Nico du Plessis, 18 Bobby de Wee, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Fabian Booysen, 21 Bradley Thain, 22 Jan-Louis la Grange.
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images