CC: Pumas at the double
August 28, 2004

The @lantic Pumas proved that their victory over the Vodacom Cheetahs seven days previously was no fluke when they beat the fancied Free Staters 29-26 in the Currie Cup match in Witbank on Friday.

A week earlier, the Pumas had put Bloemfontein's nose out of joint with a 23-16 conquest on the Cheetahs' home turf.

This time right wing Giscard Pieters sliced through six shoddy tackles from the halfway line to score the winner with just three minutes left in the match.

With that went the Cheetahs' chance to top the standings, at least until the log-leading Blue Bulls and third-placed Natal Sharks clash in Pretoria on Saturday.

The Pumas won a frenetic match by taking whatever chances came their way, and by keeping their composure in the face of an epidemic of turnovers won by Free State.

A swirling wind made life difficult for both teams, but the Pumas seemed more willing to put up with the uncertainty than the strangely sluggish Cheetahs.

The home side plainly rellished their underdog status, and the win was the perfect going-away gift for captain and flyhalf Marius Goosen, who played his last match for the Witbankers before leaving the country to further his career in Italy.

The sides exchanged penalties before Free State asserted their supposed superiority with a try by captain and number eight Rassie Erasmus that put the visitors 10-3 ahead in the 15th minute.

Loosehead Os du Randt, one of several late inclusions in the Cheetahs line-up, and tighthead CJ van der Linde both put in bullocking runs before Erasmus popped up to grab the glory.

The try jolted the Free Staters into action, and centre Anton Pitout was denied probable tries only by desperate defence by centre Dale Heidtman and then by Goosen, who had a storming allround game.

But the Pumas didn't waste their only real opportunity to strike back in the first half, which came when Cheetahs flyhalf Kennedy Tsimba floated a pass a touch too prettily.

Pumas left wing Jacques Schutte intercepted and galloped away gleefully to score and reduce the gap to just two points after 29 minutes.

Two penalties by Tsimba and one by Pumas fullback Jeandre Fourie completed the scoring in the first half, and the teams turned five points apart.

Fourie pulled three points back with another penalty two minutes into the second half. But nine minutes later the Cheetahs were 23-14 in front when they turned over possession at a ruck and sent left wing Showan Smith on a run that featured several missed tackles and culminated in a try.

The Pumas reclaimed the lead with 16 minutes left in the match when a rousing backline surge produced a try by Fourie, who rode Pitout's tackle to claim the try.

However, five minutes after that the Cheetahs were back in the lead at 26-24 on the back of Tsimba's third penalty.

The Pumas made a crafty attempt to snatch back the lead when hooker Skipper Badenhorst and replacement scrumhalf Grant Bartle pulled off a slick one-two at a lineout.

Badenhorst duly crashed over the tryline, but the television ref spotted the fact that Showan Smith's crunching tackle had forced the hooker into touch in the process.

The sparse home crowd were still bemoaning that decision when Pieters caught a looping kick near the halfway line and set off on the zig-zagging break that those same supporters are no doubt still celebrating.

Scorers:

Pumas - Tries: Jacques Schutte, Jeandre Fourie, Giscard Pieters. Conversion: Fourie. Penalties: Fourie (4).

Cheetahs - Tries: Rassie Erasmus, Showan Smith. Conversions: Kennedy Tsimba (2). Penalties: Willem de Waal, Tsimba (3).

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