Zee Mkhabela scored the opening try for the Cheetahs against the Pumas. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

BLOEMFONTEIN – The Free State Cheetahs overturned a 13-point deficit to claim a thrilling 33-32 bonus-point win over the Pumas in the Currie Cup on Friday.

Cheetahs flyhalf Robbie Petzer would be the man to emerge as the hero on a warm evening in Bloemfontein, with the youngster scoring two late tries, while claiming a personal haul of 18 log points to ensure his side came away with the spoils.

After disappointing defeats in recent weeks, this was a crucial win for the Cheetahs, which sees them consolidate second place on the Currie Cup standings.

The Pumas opened the scoring with a 10th-minute penalty to Kobus Marais, but the Cheetahs hit back soon after when scrumhalf Zee Mkhabela darted over to score next to the posts.

Yet, the Pumas then turned to one of their strengths, the rolling maul, with hooker Frankie Herne bursting over to score his fourth try of the season from the back of a lineout drive just past the quarter-hour mark.

The contest continued to ebb and flow, though, with the Cheetahs recycling possession from the kickoff for speedster Cecil Afrika to finish off the hosts’ second try, but the Pumas came roaring back as winger Jerome Pretorius was put away to score in the corner.

It enabled the Pumas to take a tenuous 15-12 lead at the break, while the visitors then appeared to take control of proceedings when some patient build-up play saw No 8 Willie Engelbrecht go over unopposed.

Marais slotted a 56th-minute penalty to push the lead out to 13 points, but the Cheetahs cut that back to just six when replacement Reinach Venter powered over to score on the hour mark.

That provided the Cheetahs with renewed confidence as Petzer was next to go over to score, but the Pumas responded impressively as fullback Justin van Staden claimed the Pumas’ bonus-point try in the 67th minute. 

However, the match-defining moment would come late in the game when Petzer showed impressive composure to dance his way over the tryline for the winning try.

Points-Scorers

Free State Cheetahs 33 – Tries: Zee Mkhabela, Cecil Afrika, Reinach Venter, Robbie Petzer (2). Conversions: Petzer (4).
Pumas 32 – Tries: Frankie Herne, Jerome Pretorius, Willie Engelbrecht, Justin van Staden. Conversions: Kobus Marais (3). Penalties: Marais (2).

African News Agency (ANA)