The Free State Cheetahs climbed to second in the Currie Cup standings with a 43-37 win over the Pumas on Saturday.
The Cheetahs fought back from 7-22 down after 26 minutes in what was an entertaining game in Nelspruit.
The visitors outscored the home side by six tries to five with Pumas centre Alwayno Visagie scoring three tries, while Benhard Janse van Rensburg got a brace for the Cheetahs.
It was the Cheetahs who opened the scoring in the fifth minute when centre Janse van Rensburg crashed over for a try after sustained pressure and excellent distribution from Ruan Pienaar inside the Pumas’ half.
Louis Fouche added the extra two points with the conversion.
However, the Pumas hit back in the 10th minute after a well-worked counterattack saw centre Alwayno Visagie sprint 70 metres downfield for a converted try.
The Pumas found themselves further in front in the 17th minute after flyhalf Chris Smith converted a penalty into three points.
Jimmy Stonehouse’s team was dominating play and they were rewarded in the 23rd minute when Visagie scored his second try of the game after a strong driving maul deep inside the Cheetahs’ 22.
Things got worse for the Cheetahs a few minutes later when Pumas fullback Devon Williams finished off some more brilliant counter-attacking for the home side’s third try of the game.
Smith was successful with the conversion and the Pumas found themselves 15 points ahead after 26 minutes.
The Cheetahs needed to be the next to score to stay in the game and they did when fullback Clayton Blommetjies ran a good line to cut through the Pumas’ defence for a simple try in the 30th minute, which Fouche converted.
The visitors had the final say in the first half with a three-pointer from Fouche to reduce the deficit to just five points.
The Cheetahs then went ahead in the opening minutes of the second half after Tian Meyer intercepted a pass in his half to sprint downfield before passing to Pienaar who ran in for an easy try. Fouche converted the score to give the Cheetahs a two-point lead.
However, that lead was short-lived after Smith put the Pumas back in front with a penalty in the 47th minute.
The see-saw nature of the second half continued after that when Cheetahs replacement Jasper Wiese ran onto a pass in the Pumas’ 22 and crashed over for his team’s bonus-point try in the 48th minute.
The Cheetahs then put some breathing space between themselves and the Pumas when centre Janse van Rensburg scored his second try of the game in the 51st minute.
After Fouche knocked over a penalty in the 57th minute, the Pumas then hit back two minutes later when loose forward Jeandre Rudolph found his way to the tryline after some good work from wing Morne Joubert down the touchline.
But that was a brief bit of joy for the Pumas with Fouche giving the Cheetahs a handy lead going into the final 10 minutes with a try of his own.
The Pumas had the final say on the scoreboard with Visagie completing his hat-trick in the 72nd minute to ensure a tense finish, but it was the Cheetahs who walked away with the maximum points in the end.
Man of the match: It was a day for the centres with Alwayno Visagie scoring three tries for the Pumas and Benhard Janse van Rensburg scoring two for the Cheetahs. The award goes to Janse van Rensburg for his all-round play.
Tries: Visagie 3, Williams, Rudolph
Cons: Smith 3
Pens: Smith 2
For Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Jansen van Rensburg 2, Blommetjies, Pienaar, Wiese, Fouche
Cons: Fouche 5
Pens: Fouche 2
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Alwayno Visagie, 12 Henko Marais, 11. Luther Obi, 10. Chris Smith, 9. Ashlon Davids, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Carel du Preez, 6 Jeandre Rudolph, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblance, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ginter Smits, 21 Jaco Marais, 22 Ruwellyn Isbell, 23 Ngonidzashe Chidoma.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Tian Meyer (captain), 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Sitnu Manjesi, 20 Abongile Nonkontwana, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Dian Badenhorst, 22 Tapiwa Mafura.
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Eduan Nel
TMO: Christie du Preez
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