Pumas edge Mbombela arm-wrestle
Pumas edge Mbombela arm-wrestleSHARE
The Pumas marked their return to the Currie Cup with a hard-earned 28-21 win over the Free State Cheetahs in Nelspruit on Saturday.
It was a scrappy, stop-start affair that was marred by an enormous amount of unforced errors and a disgraceful number of penalties, the result of very poor discipline.
It was not through a lack of endeavour and effort, but rather through poor execution that the game never really got going.
For the Pumas the quality of the match matters not. They got four valuable points at home and showed they deserved to be in the top-flight of the South African game.
The Pumas' scrum was dominant. No, that is an understatement, it demolished the Cheetahs' set piece. The line-outs were scrappy and the breakdown was a lottery.
The Pumas scrum put down an early marker, but the backs were not as accurate in their execution – which meant the Cheetahs were gifted some good field position.
It wasn't long before the visitors found a chink in the defensive armour – Rayno Benjamin going over near the right corner after some great hands got the ball wide and exposed the Pumas. Rookie flyhalf Willie du Plessis added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
The Pumas settled down and a scrum penalty in the 19th minute allowed Justin van Staden to open the home team's account.
The Pumas' first try was a big of ingenuity by fullback JW Bell – who took advantage of the Cheetahs' players propensity for handbags-at-50-paces off the ball and a quick tap saw him sneak past a number of defenders. The conversion made it 10-7.
It was a bit of indiscipline – kicking the ball away after the whistle had blown – brought Du Plessis within range and he made no mistake with the penalty, 10-all, and then he gave his team the lead with a penalty just short of the half-hour mark.
The Pumas then produced a powerplay of note – a maul, set up from a ruck near the line, Corne Steenkamp enjoying the benefits of an armchair ride over the line. The conversion was wide, but the Pumas were back in the lead – 15-13.
The Pumas flyhalf, Van Staden, earned himself a 10-minute rest for kicking the ball away again after the whistle had blow. Du Plessis kicked his third penalty and the Cheetahs hung on for a one-point lead (16-15) at the half-timer break.
The Cheetahs, in the early stages of the second half, were their own worst enemies – butchering two try-scoring opportunities while still having a one-man advantage.
Van Staden, back on the field, missed a long-range attempt at goal, before replacement Elgar Watts pushed wide an attempt – leaving the game delicately balanced at 16-15 with just over minutes remaining.
Soon afterwards the Cheetahs were reduced to 14 men, after scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius kicked the ball away in frustration after the whistle had been blown. Van Staden regained the lead for the Pumas -= 18-16.
That lead became 21-16, with just under 20 to go, as the Pumas continued to hammer away in an untidy fashion.
The most impressive play of the match, or the most telling moment, came in the 66th minute – Pumas No.8 Renaldo Bothma cleverly slapping the ball back into the field of play when all-and-sundry thought it would roll into touch. Jacobus Jonker picked up the ball and sprinted over for a crucial try.
The Cheetahs wasted a few more chances, before the visitors – through some determined phase play – worked an overlap for Ryno Benjamin to go dive over in the right corner.
With Van Staden having kicked the early conversion and Elgar Watts missing his attempt, the Cheetahs were left a converted try down and less than 10 minutes remaining.
The Pumas now went in to defensive mode and in a very effective manner ran the clock down, taking the ball through numerous phases to hold on for a deserved 28-21 win.
Man of the match: Ryno Benjamin again showed his versatility – scoring two tries on the wing and playing scrumhalf, as he has done before, when Sarel Pretorius was yellow carded. JW Bell was solid on defence and wasn't shy to take a run at the Cheetahs. However, our man of the match is Pumas No.8 Renaldo Bothma. He was everything that was good about the Pumas – energetic, physical and determined, even coming back on after having been forced to go for a pitch-side concussion test.
For the Pumas:
Tries: Bell, Steenkamp, Jonker
Cons: Van Staden 2
Pens: Van Staden 3
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Benjamin 2
Con: Du Plessis
Pens: Du Plessis 3
Yellow cards: Justin van Staden (Pumas, 35 – professional foul, kicking the ball away after the whistle), Sarel Pretorius (Cheetahs, 54 – professional foul, kicking the ball away after the whistle had blown)
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 (captain), 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Frikkie Spies, 3 Dejay Terblanche, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Vincent Koch.
Replacements: 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 Johannes Prinsloo, 7 Neil Claassen, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Kevin Stevens.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Johannes Roux, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Renier Botha, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 JP du Plessis.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Gerrie de Bruin, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Willie Vos