Rudi Mathee of Pumas is tackled by Jaco Kriel of Lions during the Absa Currie Cup Rugby match between the Pumas and Lions on 28 August 2015 at Mbombela Stadium Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Nelspruit – In a frantic finish to an entertaining Currie Cup match, the Pumas held the Free State Cheetahs to a 37-37 draw in Nelspruit on Saturday.

Replacement Rudi Mathee scored the try that allowed his team to draw level with only four minutes remaining in the match.

To cap off a splendid kicking display, flyhalf Jaco van Staden slotted the conversion that denied the Cheetahs what looked like certain victory after the enterprising play they dished up.

The Pumas started positively and managed to win their first kickable penalty in the fifth minute with flawless Van Staden making no mistake to give his side a 3-0 lead.

After coming close to scoring a try, the visitors eventually settled for a penalty to level matters in the 15th minute.

The men from Bloemfontein would create some outstanding scoring opportunities but failed to finish at crucial times.

The first try belonged to former Pumas captain Jaco Bouwer, who was moved to openside flank for this match.

After 23 minutes, the hosts enjoyed a 13-3 lead somewhat against the run of play.

Territorially and at set-phase play, the Cheetahs looked far sharper than their hosts, who did most of the defending in the opening quarter.

It took 30 minutes for the Cheetahs to score their first try through Sergeal Petersen, while they needed just 10 for the second five-pointer to come when Francois Venter barged over.

At the break, the Cheetahs had momentum on their side and that would remain the case for most of the second half.

Leading 24-13 the Free State side extended their lead with a try by De Wet Kruger and thought they may have sealed the deal when Freddie Ngoza dived over for their fifth of the match.

Two quick-fire tries by the Pumas, De-Jay Terblanche and Marnus Schoeman each scoring for the home side, turned the game on its head and after the Cheetahs were reduced to 14 men for repeated red-zone infringements, it was only a matter of time before their defensive lines would crumble.

Meanwhile, the Sharks secured a vital 45-20 bonus-point victory over Griquas in Kimberley.

The Sharks needed to stay in touch with the Cheetahs, who have also set their sights on qualifying for the play-offs, and with the win it is likely that the race will be a close one.

ANA