The Pumas recorded their first win of the 2019 Currie Cup season with a 27-20 victory over the Sharks in Nelspruit on Saturday.
The Sharks outscored the home side by three tries to two, but Christopher Smith’s boot proved to be the difference in the end as he contributed 17 points to the Pumas’ tally.
The win boosted the Pumas’ chances of making the play-offs, while the Sharks will have a fight on their hands to make the top four.
The Pumas were the better of the two teams in the opening minutes and they opened the scoring with a Smith penalty in the fourth minute.
The home’s side’s momentum was then stifled in the ninth minute when Willie Engelbrecht received a yellow card for what the official deemed a dangerous cleanout.
Not long after that the Sharks found themselves in front when wing Lwazi Mvovo was put into space out wide after some excellent handling by his teammates in the Pumas’ 22.
The visitors went further in front in the 17th minute after wing Kobus van Wyk picked up a loose ball near halfway to sprint downfield for his team’s second try.
Curwin Bosch was successful with the conversion and the Sharks had a nine-point lead.
The Pumas reduced the deficit to six points in the 26th minute with another Smith penalty before Bosch exposed the home side’s defence out wide to run through for his team’s third try in the 30th minute. Bosch was unsuccessful with the conversion.
It was the home side who had the final say in the half with another three-pointer. At half-time, the Sharks had an eight-point lead.
The Pumas made the perfect start to the second half when flank Francois Kleinhans intercepted the ball inside the Sharks’ 22 before stretching the ball over the tryline opening minute. Smith was successful with the conversion and the Pumas were just one point behind.
A few minutes later the Pumas found themselves in front with another Smith penalty before Bosch restored the Sharks’ one-point lead with a penalty of his own in the 53rd minute.
The Pumas were giving the Sharks’ plenty of problems with ball in hand and they were rewarded for their pressure when replacement hooker Simon Westraadt stretched over for a try in the 56th minute after a driving maul near the visitors’ tryline.
Both teams produced some enterprising play in the last 20 minutes and the Pumas got a massive advantage in the 75th minute when Craig Burden received a yellow card for foul play.
Flyhalf Smith stepped up and converted the penalty into three points.
In the end, it was the Pumas who held on for a vital win.
Man of the match: Pumas flank Francois Kleinhans had a strong second-half performance and played a key role in his team’s fightback in the second half. However, the award goes to his back-row teammate Jeandre Rudolph, who was just devasting with ball in hand.
Tries: Kleinhans, Westraadt
Pens: Smith 5
Tries: Mvovo, Van Wyk, Bosch
Yellow cards: Willie Engelbrecht (Pumas, 9 – foul play, dangerous cleanout), Craig Burden (Sharks, 75 – foul play)
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morné Joubert, 13 Ryan Nell (captain), 12 Henko Marais, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Christopher Smith, 9 Ashlon Davids, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ginter Smuts, 21 Jacobus Marais, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Morgan Naude.
Sharks: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Phepsi Buthelezi, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Aphelele Fassi.
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Christie du Preez