Pumas edge Cheetahs in thriller to set up Final with Griquas
CURRIE CUP REPORT: A try by Ali Mgijima at the death helped the Pumas edge the Cheetahs 38-35 in their Currie Cup semifinal in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Pumas will now head to Kimberley to face Griquas in next weekend’s Final.
The never-say-die visitors outscored the Free Staters by six tries to four to put themselves in a position to secure a maiden Currie Cup title
The Pumas were also down 17-32 with 20 minutes left on the clock before they staged their fightback.
The Cheetahs found themselves in a sticky situation, trailing 7-17 and suffering a major blow when inspirational captain Ruan Pienaar limped off at the end of the first quarter.
However, a yellow card offence by flank Daniel Maartens – illegally sacking a driving maul – spawned a 24-point swing in what looked to be a decisive 10-minute period before and after half-time.
The hosts remained in control up until the 75th minute when, leading by 11, No.11 Rosko Specman saw yellow for a deliberate knockdown and the Pumas, in their first semifinal in 42 years, pounced, with replacements Simon Raw and Mgijima scoring and Tinus de Beer converting both tries to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Having finished the regular season one place above the Pumas in third position, the Peacock Blues will stage the final in Kimberley after they ended the Bulls’ reign with a famous 30-19 victory in Pretoria on Friday night.
Starting confidently, the Pumas turned down a regulation penalty from right in front of the uprights and the decision paid off as an audacious behind-the-back offload by captain Willie Engelbrecht saw Eddie Fouche dot down and convert to draw first blood in the eighth minute.
The Cheetahs found their flow and after a sustained period of attack, Jeandre Rudolph steamrolled Tapiwa Mafura to power over in the left-hand corner. Pienaar’s touchline conversion levelled the scores after 17 minutes.
De Beer, who had a standout game, hacked a loose ball through, re-gathered and offloaded to Sebastian de Klerk, who was over for his brace soon afterwards following seamless interplay and another special touch, this time by Maartens. Fouche’s radar was off, the inside centre missing both conversion attempts and a penalty kick at goal, but the visitors were in control leading 17-7.
The Cheetahs’ forwards then stood up, winning a scrum penalty with a monster shove to set up an attacking line-out and rumbling with their driving maul to earn a penalty try.
In yellow-carded Maartens’ absence, Siya Masuku slotted the first penalty goal of the afternoon before some “Specmagic” saw the hosts snatch the lead on the stroke of half-time, Clayton Blommetjies holding onto the last pass by Rudolph after Specman had danced past a couple of defenders.
Hawies Fourie’s men banked another try with their numerical advantage at the start of the second stanza, a barnstorming break by David Brits leading to a second try for tireless Rudolph, which went unconverted. As Maartens returned from the sin bin, Masuku stretched the lead to 15 following another overwhelming scrummaging effort by his pack.
Jade Stighling was inches away from scoring a try to claw the visitors back into the match but the left wing had a foot in touch before he grounded the ball.
Continuing to scratch, it took until the 63rd minute for the Pumas to strike, De Beer the catalyst with some sublime footwork and the flyhalf feeding replacement Giovan Snyman, who sped in for a seven-pointer to make it 32-24.
The Cheetahs were able to respond through a third Masuku penalty goal to widen the gap to 11 with as many minutes remaining before the dramatic turn of events at the death.
The Pumas capitalised on Specman’s yellow card right away with Raw muscling over before a wonderful wave of interplay washed Mgijima over for the historic match-winning try.
Man of the match: Jeandre Rudolph was outstanding for the Cheetahs. He scored two tries and he was just a hard man to bring down when he had ball in hand. However, the award goes to Pumas flyhalf Tinus de Beer. He had a hand in a couple of his team’s tries, including Mgijima’s match-winner in the 79th minute.
Tries: Rudolph 2, Penalty Try, Blommetjies
Cons: Pienaar, Masuku
Pens: Masuku 3
Tries: Fouche, De Klerk 2, Snyman, Raw, Mgijima
Cons: Fouche 2, De Beer 2
Yellow cards: Daniel Maartens (Pumas, 32′ – cynical play, collapsing the maul); Rosko Specman (Cheetahs, 75′- cynical play, offside)
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 David Brits, 12 Chris Smit, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Siyabonga Masuku, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Aidon Davis, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Louis van der Westhuizen, 1 Cameron Dawson.
Replacements: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Marne Coetzee, 19 Ockie Barnard, 20 George Cronje, 21 Rewan Kruger, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 Robert Ebersohn.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Tapiwa Mafura, 13 Sebastian de Klerk, 12 Eddie Fouche, 11 Jade Stighling, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Andre Fouche, 7 Willie Engelbrecht (captain), 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Shane Kirkwood, 4 Deon Slabbert, 3 Ignatius Prinsloo, 2 Eduan Swart, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Llewellyn Classen, 17 Dewald Maritz, 18 Simon Raw, 19 Kwanda Dimaza, 20 Francois Kleinhans, 21 Giovan Snyman, 22 Ali Mgijima, 23 Alwayno Visagie.
Referee: Morné Ferreira
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, Ruhan Meiring
TMO: Marius Jonker
Additional source: SA Rugby