Free State squeak past plucky Pumas
There was a total of 15 tries scored between the sides during their 70 minutes on the field, which proves that defence was not a priority for either side. Free State crossed the try-line on nine occasions while the Pumas scored six tries of their own.
The Pumas kept themselves within a point of Free State for most of the match, but fell by the wayside in the closing stages of the match – which allowed Free State to score two late tries to put some cushion between them.
Free State made the perfect start as Arno Nieuwoudt grabbed the first points of the game when he dotted down in the second minute. Christopher Schreuder added the extras to ensure a 7-0 lead.
Stephan van der Bank hit back for the Pumas in the eighth minute when he slotted an easy penalty, after missing a near 60-metre attempt earlier.
Free State then stamped their authority on the match soon after though as they scored two quick tries to take a commanding lead. First Janco van Heyningen took a quick penalty and wormed his way over to dot down in the corner. Then Rikus Pretorius sniped his way through the heart of the Pumas' defence.
Schreuder added both conversions to stretch his side's lead to 21-3 after 13 minutes.
Back came the Pumas though as Tinus de Beer wriggled over from close range. Van der Bank could not find the target with the conversion as the Pumas now trailed 8-21 after 16 minutes.
The Pumas edged themselves back into the contest by reducing the deficit to a solitary point by the 28th minute. Teboho Mosia showed his finishing prowess as he crossed twice in quick succession to bring his side back into the contest. Van der Bank added just a solitary conversion to ensure his side trailed 20-21.
Free State dominated possession and territory in the second half but handling errors stifled a few easy scoring chances. That dominance paid off in the 45th minute when hooker Ru-hann Greyling powered his way over the line after numerous attempts at bashing their way through.
Schreuder added the conversion to extend his side's lead to 28-20.
The Pumas hit back and came back to within one point of the lead when neat interplay between Van der Bank and Prince Nkabinde, saw the flyhalf race through unopposed. He added the extras to reduce the deficit to 27-28 after 49 minutes.
That joy was short-lived though as Keaton Swart pulled a try back for Free State. Schreuder's conversion ensured a 35-27 lead in the 52nd minute.
The Pumas were not going to do down without a fight and got themselves back to within a point of Free State when Thabiso Mkwabane benefitted from a quickly taking penalty to dot down unopposed. Van der Bank converted to see the Pumas trail 34-35 after 60 minutes.
Back came Free State though and regained their eight-point lead through Pretorius and a Schreuder conversion, only to see that lead reduced back to a solitary point when Prince Nkabinde pounced to score in the corner. Van der Bank converted to trail 41-42.
Free State hit back straight away to and took a 15-point lead with two minutes remaining in the match as Marcel Theunissen and Teboho Rampai crossed the try-line. Schreuder maintained his 100 percent record to ensure a 56-41 lead.
Greyling added the cherry on top in the final minute when he bagged his second try of the game. Schreuder was in the money once again to bring an end to the encounter.
For Free State:
Tries: Arno Nieuwoudt, Janco van Heyningen, Rikus Pretorius 2, Ru-hann Greyling 2, Keaton Swart, Marcel Theunissen, Teboho Rampai
Cons: Christopher Schreuder 9
Tries: Tiaan de Beer, Teboho Mosia 2, Stephan van der Bank, Thabiso Mkwabane, Prince Nkabinde
Cons: Stephan van der Bank 3
Pen: Stephan van der Bank
Yellow card: Janco van Heyningen (Free State, 22; dangerous play – high tackle)
Free State: 15 David Kriel (Grey), 14 Henk Cilliers (Grey), 13 Janco van Heyningen (Grey), 12 Rikus Pretorius (Grey), 11 Wycliff Vlitoor (Grey), 10 Christopher Schreuder (Grey), 9 Ross Braude (Grey), 8 Arno Nieuwoudt (Grey), 7 Marcel Theunissen (Grey), 6 Teboho Rampai (Louis Botha), 5 De Wet Marais (Grey), 4 Tamkelo Mzayayi (Louis Botha), 3 Naudé Naudé (Grey), 2 Ru-hann Greyling (Grey), 1 Andile Maxamba (Louis Botha), 16 Luke Janse van Vüren (Grey), 17 Shiraigh Lalla (Louis Botha), 18 Herman Agenbag (Grey), 19 Olentse Mphuthi (Louis Botha), 20 Lebo Molefe (Grey), 21 Keaton Swart (Louis Botha), 22 Martin Lottering (Louis Botha), 23 Jayden Seekoei (Louis Botha).
Pumas: 15 Coenraad Visser (Middelburg), 14 Tshepo Malumane (Baberton), 13 Siphesihle Mthethwa, 12 Riekert Barnard (Middelburg), 11 Teboho Mosia (Hoogenhout), 10 Stephan van der Bank (Nelspruit), 9 Joao Cristovam (Nelspruit), 8 Calvin Clack (Ligbron), 7 Renier Troskie (Nelspruit), 6 Bongumenzi Dlamini (Piet Retief), 5 Marius Slabbert (Nelspruit), 4 Sibusiso Madonsela (Piet Retief), 3 Wian Otto (Nelspruit), 2 SP Muller (Nelspruit), 1 Banele Mthenjane (Nelspruit), 16 Duart Willemse (Middelburg), 17 Nkosinathi Mthetwa (Piet Retief), 18 Gerald van Eeden (Nelspruit), 19 Lindelani Makhanya (Piet Retief), 20 Tiaan de Beer (Middelburg), 21 Uys de Preez (Middelburg), 22 Thabiso Mkwabane (Ermelo), 23 Prince Nkabinde (Hoogenhout).
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Assistant referees: Johre Botha, Aimee Barrett-Theron