Cheetahs hold off Pumas late Currie Cup surge

The Free State Cheetahs held off a late challenge from the Pumas in the dying minutes the game to secure a comfortable 45-30 victory in Witbank on Saturday, closing the gap on the top four on the Currie Cup log to settle in fifth place with 14 points.


With only one win from five matches, against bottom feeders the Leopards, the newly promoted Pumas are already facing a relegation battle and will need to raise their game if they are to avoid a struggle for their place in the premier division.


With the Pumas leading 6-3 in the 17th minute, all from penalties, prop Coenie Oosthuizen placed the Cheetahs in the lead for the first time with the opening try of the game, and flyhalf Louis Strydom converted to give them a 10-6 advantage.


Eight minutes later Pumas centre Shaun Venter dotted down for the hosts after an interception to put the Pumas on top again at 13-10, and flyhalf Ricardo Croy added two for the conversion.


Hendro Scholtz, however, placed the visitors back in the driving seat with their third try, and wing Jongi Nokwe stole clear down the left wing from his own half to secure the bonus point try in the dying minutes of the first half.


Strydom converted both, and with a penalty from Croy in the 36th minute the only reply from the Pumas, the Cheetahs took a 24-16 lead in to half-time.


And the visitors wasted no time after the break, pushing forward from the whistle, with Strydom breaking through in the 43rd minute to score, and converting his own try to put the Cheetahs 31-16 ahead shortly before he was replaced by Sias Ebersohn.


Nine minutes later wing Robert Ebersohn chipped the ball and chased from 30m out to dot it down, with his namesake at flyhalf kicking the conversion to stretch the gap by another seven points.


With the Cheetahs running the ball well and swinging it both ways, centre Meyer Bosman found a gap and crashed over in the 59th minute, with Sias Ebersohn converting, and the hosts were faced with a mountain to climb trailing 45-16.


Completely dominating the second period, the Cheetahs were unlucky not to have added another couple of tries, but the home side fought back hard with the final whistle approaching.


Jacques Coetzee barged over for the Pumas in the 78th minute to score their first try of the half, with Croy adding two points for the conversion.


And Carl Bezuidenhout scored another try on the right wing in injury time, with Elgar Watts slotting the conversion to close the gap even further. It was too little too late, however, and the visitors held on to clinch their third win of the competition.


Final Score Cheetahs 45 Pumas 30


Scorers:


Cheetahs:
Tries: Coenie Oosthuizen, Hendro Scholtz, Jongi Nokwe, Louis Strydom, Robert Ebersohn, Meyer Bosman.
Conversions: Strydom (4), Sias Ebersohn (2).
Penalty: Strydom .


Pumas:
Tries: Shaun Venter, Jacques Coetzee, Carl Bezuidenhout.
Conversions: Ricardo Croy (2), Elgar Watts.
Penalties: Croy (3).

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