Cheetahs sneak in for victory

GARETH DUNCAN watched the Cheetahs score two late tries to record a 29-23 bonus-point win over the Pumas in Witbank.

It was heartbreak for the Pumas, who likely played their final home game in the Currie Cup Premier Division (the top tier will be reduced to six teams in 2012, but relegation terms for this season are yet to be confirmed). They were leading 22-17 in the final five minutes with only 14 men before a 77th minute converted try by flyhalf Sias Ebersohn edged the Cheetahs ahead. Seconds later, replacement centre Andries Strauss scored the visitors’ fourth try in the final movement to seal the bonus-point win.

The hosts delivered a brave first-half performance as they held a 13-7 lead at the break. Despite only having 27% of possession in the first quarter, Pumas flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout slotted a penalty for the first points of the game. Flanker Philip van der Walt hit back for the Cheetahs, but centre Dewald Pretorius’ try and Bezuidenhout’s conversion and penalty sealed a five-point buffer at half-time.

The Cheetahs started the second stanza stronger, with prop Marcel van der Merwe scoring soon after the restart – yet the Pumas refused to fold and surged ahead with flanker Jaco Bouwer crossing the chalk.

The turning point of the match was when lock Eduan Van Der Walt was sin binned in the 71st minute. With a one-man disadvantage, the Pumas’ resistance crumbled, seeing Ebersohn and Strauss complete a valuable bonus-point win within a three-minute period.