Home Sport Pumas stun Cheetahs to reach Currie Cup final

Pumas stun Cheetahs to reach Currie Cup final

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The Pumas stunned the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday to set up a Currie Cup final clash against Griquas in Kimberley.

Rosko Specman Free State Cheetahs runs with the ball during their Currie Cup semi-final match against the Pumas at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday. The Pumas stunned the Cheetahs to set up a final meeting in Kimberley against Griquas
Rosko Specman Free State Cheetahs runs with the ball during their Currie Cup semi-final match against the Pumas at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday. The Pumas stunned the Cheetahs to set up a final meeting in Kimberley against Griquas. Photo: Charle Lombard/BackpagePix

Durban — Griquas will host the Pumas in Kimberley next week in a Currie Cup final made in heaven for those who appreciate the bigger picture of South African rugby and who celebrate the efforts of the smaller unions to stay alive.

There will be questions over the bigger United Rugby Championship franchises’ inability to field backup teams capable of winning the Currie Cup but there should also be gratitude that the game is alive and well among the likes of Griquas and the Pumas who perennially live off scraps from the top table where the Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers dine.

ALSO READ: First Currie Cup final in 52 years for Griquas after Loftus win

The big losers are the Cheetahs, who were kicked out of the URC and really ought to have won the Currie Cup with their first-choice team intact, and until 30 seconds from the final whistle of their semi-final on Saturday against the Pumas they looked destined to host Griquas in the final.

But the never-say-die Pumas pulled off an astonishing comeback after being 35-24 down with 10 minutes to go to snatch the spoils when replacement centre Ali Mgijima went over at the posts to stun the Free Staters 38-35.

The Pumas had clearly taken heart from that Griquas victory over the defending champion Bulls and they had a dream start in Bloemfontein when fierce forward driving freed up a gap out wide for centre Eddie Fouche to drift through for a try at the posts.

In the 15th minute Juandré Rudolf equalised for the Cheetahs when he barged over in the corner but the visitors struck back immediately when Tinus de Beer gathered the ball after a wayward Cheetahs pass and set up outside centre Sebastian de Klerk for a try.

Perhaps of even greater significance than the score was the unfortunate fact that talisman and captain Ruan Pienaar was injured in the process and limped off.

And when De Klerk burst through gap in the defence in the 25th minute for his second try it was 17-7 although it could have been much more had Fouche not missed two easy conversions and a simple penalty.

Those squandered points would well come back to haunt the Pumas, and when the Cheetahs were awarded a penalty try on the half hour mark when the Pumas had pulled down a maul, it was 17-14, and then it was level pegging when Siya Masuku nailed a penalty.

The momentum change was confirmed when Pumas flank Daniel Maartens was yellow-carded, and the home team surged into the lead when fullback Clayton Blommetjies exploded through the defence for a lovely try.

And when the home team nailed the vital first score after half time — a second try for No.8 Rudolph after two minutes — the Pumas were in trouble at 29-17.

Masuku missed the corner flag conversion but kicked a beauty not long after.

As the game passed the three-quarter mark, the Pumas desperately needed a score and it came from substitute centre Giovan Snyman who cashed in a wonderful break by flyhalf De Beer.

That gave them hope but with ten minutes to go a Masuku penalty pushed his side into a 35-24 and when Cheetahs wing Rosko Specman was sin-binned for a professional foul, the door was opened.

Substitute Pumas prop Simon Raw promptly muscled over and the seven-pointer meant there were four points in it with four minutes to play, and up stepped Mgijima to clinch the victory with 30 seconds to go.

Scorers

Pumas 38 — Tries: Eddie Fouche, Sebastian de Klerk (2), Giovan Snyman, Simon Raw, Ali Mgijima. Conversions: Fouche (3), Tinus de Beer.

Cheetahs 45 — Tries: Juandre Rudolf, Penalty Try, Clayton Blommetjies. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar, Siya Masuku. Penalties: Siya Masuku (3)

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