Specman hat-trick stands out
The Golden Lions and the Pumas were the first teams to advance to the Vodacom Cup semifinals, after beating the Sharks and Pampas teams respectively on Friday.
Three tries by left wing Rosko Specman and 24 points from flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout helped the Pumas through to the semis against a valiant Pampas XV - the Pumas winning 44-37 at the Mbombela Stadium on Friday night.
They will now play the winners of the fourth quarterfinal, between the Blue Bulls and EP Kings on Saturday.
The Argentine Pampas team did well to recover from being 17-0 down in the first 10 minutes, after two tries by Specman and seven points from Bezuidenhout, to close the gap to 27-15 at half-time and to 34-30 midway through the second half.
Both teams scored five tries, but the Pampas were undone by some wayward kicking by their flyhalf, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, who missed two conversions and three penalties.
Their scoreline was given some respectability by a try on the stroke of full-time after a series of concerted attacks on the Pumas line, all of which were held by a resolute defence until it was too late to make a difference.
The Pumas, who had lost just one game, heading the Northern section, showed they were prepared to be adventurous from the outset.
Fullback Coenie van Wyk released Specman 60 metres out with a well-timed pass in the fifth minute, then centre Stefan Watermeyer put through a perfectly-weighted grubber which sat up for Specman just two minutes later.
Along with the penalty slotted by Bezuidenhout, and two conversions, the Pumas were looking to be in total control, especially as the Argentineans were struggling in the scrums. But they hit back a try by flank Rodrigo Baez, converted by Iglesias, to narrow the gap to 17-7.
The two No.10s traded penalties, but the Pumas surged ahead again to 27-10 when Bezuidenhout kicked ahead for Specman. The bounce eluded the winger, but Bezuidenhout was on hand himself to gather and score.
Again the Pampas came back, with scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli breaking free from broken play to score in the corner and they went into the break at 27-15.
The Argentines set the pace early in the second half, scoring from a line-out drive after three minutes, and adding a penalty, but the Pumas loosehead prop, Vincent Koch, playing wide, broke through the back line at speed for a converted try to push the gap to 34-23.
Again the Pampas responded; fullback Ramiro Moyano, benefiting from a wonderful offload by Cubelli. Then came Specman's hat-trick try, with 10 minutes to play, and the game was out of reach.
For the Pumas:
Tries: Specman 3, Bezuidenhout, Koch
Cons: Bezuidenhout 5
Pens: Bezuidenhout 3
Tries: Baez, Cubelli, Macome, Moyano, Montero
Cons: Iglesias 3
Pens: Iglesias 2
* In the other semifinal on Friday flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff kicked 25 points to lead the Golden Lions into the semis courtesy of a 42-25 win over the Sharks XV at Kings Park in Durban.
Boshoff kicked six penalties, three conversions and a drop-goal, while the visitors ran in three second-half tries to make sure of their victory.
The Sharks XV, who boasted Springbok loose forwards Willem Alberts and Ryan Kankowski in their pack, replied with a try from wing Sizo Maseko while pivot Fred Zeilinga ended with a personal haul of 20 points courtesy of six penalties and a conversion.
The Golden Lions will play the winner of the quarterfinal between Western Province and Griquas, a result which will be determined on Saturday.
The visitors began the second half holding a slim two-point lead but their forwards gradually took control of the contest and outside centre Deon van Rensburg, who injured himself in the process, grabbed the Golden Lions' first try seven minutes after the restart.
Zeilinga hit back with a penalty but the visitors essentially secured their victory when the impressive left wing Anthony Volmink split the Sharks XV defence wide open to zip over for a converted try in the 59th minute.
Zeilinga and Boshoff exchanged penalties before the Golden Lions ended the match with a late breakaway try for fullback Chrysander Botha.
The scrappy first half was dominated by the boot with Boshoff and his opposite number Zeilinga monopolising the scoring as the visitors edged into a 15-9 lead thanks to five penalties from Boshoff.
However, the Sharks XV, who had been guilty of a number of handling errors which stymied their attacking ambitions, finally found some fluency and left wing Maseko sniped over for a try between the posts, in the 39th minute, after taking the scoring pass from Zeilinga.
The hosts would have been forgiven for thinking that they would take a half-time lead thanks to Maseko's try but Boshoff had the final say in the half with a wonderful 35-metre snap drop goal after the hooter had sounded as the Lions went to the break leading 18-16.
For the Sharks XV:
Pens: Zeilinga 6
For the Golden Lions:
Tries: Van Rensburg, Volmink, Botha
Cons: Boshoff 3
Pens: Boshoff 6
Sources: SAPA & SARU