KIMBERLEY – Griquas ground their way to within six points of the lead in the last 10 minutes, but the Pumas were full value for their 27-21 Currie Cup victory in Kimberley on Sunday.
Pumas flyhalf Justin van Staden’s steady boot contributed 12 points to the visitors’ total, while the men from Mpumalanga also took their opportunities on attack to move off the bottom of the log ahead of the Golden Lions.
The victory brought an end to the three-game losing streak for the Pumas, as well as stopping Griquas’ winning run at two matches.
The Pumas looked the livelier of the two teams with ball-in-hand, especially in the first half, and it was no surprise when they opened the scoring in the 12th minute.
Nippy scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer darted around a ruck and found No 8 Francois Kleinhans, who put No 13 Jerome Pretorius away for the first try of the match.
Griquas were generally let down by their handling throughout.
But a piece of individual brilliance from exciting fullback Eric Zana – where he swivelled away from the defenders and offloaded in the tackle – resulted in captain and wing AJ Coertzen getting the ball in space, and he had the necessary footwork and pace to score in the 16th minute.
The Pumas forwards got the better of their Griquas counterparts, and provided a solid base from the scrums. They attacked the inside channels, with a series of pick-and-go carries proving highly effective.
Soon the ploy paid off, as after a five-metre scrum, flank Chris Cloete found a gap next to a ruck to force his way through to reclaim a seven-point lead for the visitors.
There was more joy for the Pumas on the half-hour mark as they showed that they had good rhythm in taking the ball through nine phases, before loosehead prop Khwezi Mona barged his way over in the 10th for a 21-10 advantage.
Flyhalf Van Staden added another three-pointer for a 24-10 half-time lead, and it was always going to be tough for Griquas to come back from such a large deficit.
They didn’t give up, though, and almost hit back soon after the break when a perfectly-weighted grubber by flyhalf André Swarts bounced up for wing Ruwellyn Isbell, but the No 11 lost the ball forward just short of the line as his elbow made contact with the ground.
Van Staden then missed a penalty for the Pumas, but they were happy to just keep Griquas at bay and protect their 14-point lead.
However, the home side finally made their move, and it was thanks mainly to fleet-footed fullback Zana.
The former Boland stalwart carried the ball up to the halfway line, released the ball in the tackle and picked it up again to break up the middle.
Zana had the skill to find replacement loose forward Renier Botha, who made it to the line to bring his team back into the game at 24-15 in the 57th minute.
Griquas were galvanised by that score, but had to wait 14 more minutes before they added to their total when George Whitehead slotted a penalty to make it a six-point game at 24-18.
But the Pumas held on with some strong tackling, with Van Staden kicking another penalty with a few minutes to go, while Whitehead secured a losing bonus point for Griquas with a three-pointer just before the final whistle.
Griquas 21 – Tries: AJ Coertzen, Renier Botha. Conversion: André Swarts (1). Penalties: Swarts (1), George Whitehead (2).
Pumas 27 – Tries: Jerome Pretorius, Chris Cloete, Khwezi Mona. Conversions: Justin van Staden (3). Penalties: Van Staden (2).
African News Agency (ANA)