Cheetahs dine on Pumas

There were no coloured boards or flicking lights but the Vodacom Cheetahs were no less ruthless as they trounced the hapless Pumas 68-12 in Witbank.

Rassie Erasmus’s team was always expected to win comfortably against the Witbank outfit and signaled their intention to retain the Absa Currie Cup with a characteristically clinical display of attacking rugby.

The Pumas though were solid in their set phases and matched the visitors much-vaunted forwards in the tight and loose in the early exchanges.

A scrappy and unstructured first half was dominated by a joust between the boots of Willem de Waal and Pieter Benade.

The Currie Cup’s leading points scorer, De Waal, opened the scoring, after Kabamba Floors continued his season-long breakdown dominance to win a penalty, and the No 10 quickly extended the lead to nine points after the Pumas were twice blown up for ruck infrigments.

The Bloemfontein-based side initially struggled to get any momentum through their backline and had to wait until the 30th minute before they crossed the tryline.

A sweeping move that started from the left touchline saw De Waal deceive the defence with a cut-out pass to Floors who straightened the line and created an overlap for Alwyn Hollenbach to score.

If the Cheetahs were conservative for the first 30 minutes, they showed all their attacking prowess in the final 10 minutes of the half as they extended their lead to 28 points at the break.

The play seemed to have broken down near the right touchline but De Waal assessed the situation superbly to shift the direction of attack. He threw a long floating pass to Bevin Fortuin in midfield, and two phases later prop Wian du Preez barged over in the corner.

Wing Gavin Passens created the third try with a searing run along the touchline and after some great support play, Floors scored a try as the siren sounded.

The Pumas’ inability to compete at the breakdown wasn’t aided by a first half yellow card for Johan Prince and it was from yet another ruck infringement that the Cheetahs secured the bonus point just after half-time.

Noel Oelschig tapped quickly and offloaded to Fortuin who was coming through on his shoulder. The hard running fullback broke the defensive line by shrugging off two tackles and drawing his opposite number before sending lock Bian Vermaak in under the posts.

Du Preez compounded a miserable game for the hosts with his second try after some solid phase play in the Pumas 22m area. Oelschig was again the supplier with a popped pass which the prop collected after the defence was left depleted.

The Cheetahs seemed to have forgotten how to punt the ball as a series of expansive moves saw Du Preez cross over for his second, Phillip Burger score his 11th try of the season and Ryno van der Merwe touch down after a driving maul devastated the Puma pack.

The pick of the tries came from a set piece where the ball moved through every pair of backline players hands before a sharp transfer in the direction of play saw Passens round his defender before offloading to Floors who scored his second.

To late tries, from Jeandre Fourie and Neil Cole respectively, would’ve done little to lift the disillusioned Pumas, who have now conceded over 300 points this season.

Man of the Match Floors was simply irrepressible and his hat-trick try underlined his value to the Cheetahs. A sidestep that any backline player would be proud of left three defenders sprawling and completed a nine-try-to-two rout, to leave the defending champions five points clear at the top of the log.

Pumas - Tries: Fourie, Cole. Conversion: Benade
Cheetahs - Tries: Hollenbach, Du Preez (2), Floors (3), Vermaak, Burger, Van der Merwe. Conversions: De Waal (5) Du Toit. Penalties: De Waal (3)

By Ryan Vrede