Cheetahs win see-saw battle in Bloem
CURRIE CUP REPORT: The Free State Cheetahs got back to winning ways in this year's Currie Cup with a narrow 33-32 win over the Pumas in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The home side outscored their opponents by five tries to four in a match where the lead changed a number of times.
Cheetahs flyhalf Robbie Petzer was the star of the show as he scored and converted two tries in the final quarter to help his side edge the Pumas.
Both sides had their fair share of the ball in the opening 10 minutes, but it was the Pumas who had a slender lead through a penalty from flyhalf Kobus Marais.
The Cheetahs had an opportunity to level matters three minutes later with a penalty of their own but flyhalf Petzer pushed his kick wide of the uprights.
However, the Pumas gifted the Cheetahs possession from the restart and after a couple of phases inside the visitors' 22, it was scrumhalf Zee Mkhabela who found a way to the tryline with Petzer adding the extras with a conversion.
Despite looking the more enterprising with ball in hand, the Cheetahs' lead did not last long as the Pumas hit back with a try of their own in the 22nd minute when hooker Frankie Herne crossed the whitewash from a powerful driving maul. Marais converted the try to put his side 10-7 in front.
Like the Cheetahs, the Pumas could not hold onto their lead for long and a minute later wing Cecil Afrika was put into space down the touchline to race away for the Cheetahs' second try.
The see-saw nature of the game continued in the first half when the Pumas launched a dangerous attack inside the Cheetahs' half before wing Jerome Pretorius sprinted for a try in the 33rd minute. Marais could not convert, but the Pumas led 15-12.
The Pumas were the first to score in the second half when No.8 Willie Engelbrecht finished off some good work by his teammates to score in the 48th minute. Marais stepped up to convert to extend the visitors' lead to 10 points.
The visitors went further in front in the 56th minute when Marais converted a penalty into three points after sustained pressure from the Pumas inside the Cheetahs' 22.
The Cheetahs needed to be the next team to score to keep their hopes alive and they did just that when replacement hooker Reinach Venter crashed over for a try in the 60th minute with Petzer converting.
The home side then completed their mini-comeback four minutes later when Petzer stretched over for a try which he converted to give his side a one-point lead going into the final 15 minutes.
However, once again the Cheetahs could not hold onto their lead for long as the Pumas hit back in the 67th minute when fullback Justin van Staden ran in for the easiest of tries after some clever passing in the Cheetahs' 22. Marais converted to give the Pumas a 32-26 lead.
The home side were not about to give up and after sustained pressure and numerous penalties inside the Pumas' 22, Petzer crashed over for his second try in the 75th minute, which he converted for a one-point lead.
That would be the final bit of scoring in the game as the Cheetahs held on for the win.
Man of the match: Clayton Blommetjies was dangerous with ball in hand throughout the 80 minutes. However, the award goes to Cheetahs flyhalf Robbie Petzer, who played an integral part in his side's victory.
For Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Mkhabela, Afrika, Venter, Petzer 2
Cons: Petzer 4
Tries: Herne, Pretorius, Engelbrecht, Van Staden
Cons: Marais 3
Pens: Marais 2
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Vuyani Maqina, 13 Ali Mgijima, 12 Lloyd Greeff, 11 Cecil Afrika, 10 Robbie Petzer, 9 Zee Mkhabela, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Chris Dry (captain), 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Dennis Visser, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Gert Kotze.
Replacements: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Andrew Kuhn, 18 Jeremy Jordaan, 19 Nicolaas Immelman, 20 Juan-Philip Smith, 21 Jacobus Jonker, 22 Stephan Janse van Rensburg.
Pumas: 15 Justin van Staden, 14 Jerome Pretorius, 13 Gerrit Smith, 12 Hennie Skorbinski (captain), 11 Ruwellyn Isbell, 10 Kobus Marais, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Brian Shabangu, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Stefan Willemse, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Frankie Herne, 1 Kwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Cameron Lindsay, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Hilton Lobberts, 21 Theo Maree, 22 Selom Gavor.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Jaco Kotze, Eon van Zyl
TMO: Lourens van der Merwe