The Pumas put the seal on one of their most successful seasons in decades when they took the First Division title with a comprehensive 47-19 thrashing of the luckless SWD Eagles in Witbank on Friday.
The six-tries-to-one win was every bit as convincing as the scoreline suggests.
And now the men from Mpumalanga can focus their attention on promotion to the Currie Cup Premier Division, as they meet the Boland Cavaliers in back-to-back promotion-relegation games in the next fortnight.
But back to Friday and the sublime performance by a Pumas team that has dominated the First Division this season, also showing their class with some superb play in the Final.
Pumas captain Hannes Franklin was understandably delighted, but said the hard work – to gain promotion – starts now and the celebrations will be tempered.
Bevin Fortuin, the Eagles captain, said he was proud of his team, despite the defeat. Fortuin pointed to the first half in which they gifted the home team a few soft tries with silly mistakes.
Fortuin said his team will now shift their focus to the promotion-relegation matches against the Leopards, also in the next fortnight.
After a frantic start, in which both teams showed their willingness to carry the ball in hand, Ricardo Croy opened the scoring with a penalty in the third minute.
Braam Pretorius had a chance to level matters four minutes later, but his shot was off target, as the home team continued their all-out attack.
It went from bad to worse for the Pumas minutes later when prop Ronnie Uys was yellow carded for a shoulder charge and Croy slotted the penalty for a 6-0 lead.
The Pumas managed to pull it back to 3-6, when Pretorius slotted a penalty in the 11th minute – the Eagles penalised for holding on in the tackle.
Their all-action approach soon paid dividends, as they went for a line-out instead of kicking for the posts. The maul initially went sideways, but the Pumas soon gathered momentum and they rumbled over – with Hannes Franklin credited with the try. Pretorius added the touchline conversion and suddenly the Pumas took a 10-6 lead – while being a man down.
However, at a scrum from the restart the Pumas were penalised for ‘standing up’ in the scrum and Croy made it 9-10 with 18 minutes gone.
Uys, in the first scrum after his return from the sin-bin, made amends by annihilating an Eagles scrum and securing a turnover.
And from that scrum they took the ball through a series of pick-’n-drives, before the hooker, Franklin, burst over for his second try. The call did go the TMO, but it didn’t take him long to confirm the score. Pretorius’s conversion attempt was wide, but at 15-9 the Pumas were beginning to look menacing.
Just on the half-hour mark the Pumas won another penalty for an infringement at the breakdown and Pretorius made it 18-9.
Croy hit the upright with a penalty attempt in the 33rd minute, as the Pumas maintained their stranglehold on the game.
The Pumas stretched their lead to 21-9 when flyhalf Valentine van Wyk landed a sweetly-struck drop-goal with less than three minutes remaining in the first half.
Bevin Fortuin had a shot at goal from 50 metres out right on half-time, but he was well short and the Pumas took that 12-point lead into the break.
The Eagles, at the start of the second half, threw everything they had at the Pumas in an effort to closer the gap.
Their first real chance at scoring came in the 56th minute, when replacement Gaffie du Toit landed a penalty from near 50 metres out – 12-21.
But from the restart a Du Toit mistake, when the ball was kicked directly into touch after being carried back into the 22, gave the Pumas an attacking line-out. And prop Ronnie Uys galloped through a gaping hole in the defence for try number three. Pretorius landed the conversion and at 28-12 it left the Eagles with a mountain to climb.
And when wing Allistair Kettledas flopped over for the fourth try as the final quarter approached – when the Pumas countered with devastating affect after another Eagles mistake – the game had ended as a contest. Pretorius failed with the conversion, but 33-12 meant the Eagles required three converted tries just to draw level.
Kettledas scored his second, and the fifth for the Pumas, in the 73rd minute – from a cross-field kick. The conversion made it 40-12, as the demoralised Eagles outfit could only hang their heads.
The Eagles’ dismal even was summed up in a movement five minutes from time, when Springbok fullback Bevin Fortuin broke clean through, only to pass to a Pumas player instead of one of his teammates.
There was eventually a consolation score, with wing Norman Nelson scoring the Eagles’ solitary try in the 79th minute – but as they say in the classics: ‘It was far too little, too late.’
To rub salt into the festering Eagles wounds replacement Ashwin Scott scored a sixth try right on the final whistle. The conversion made the final score 47-19.
Man of the match: You will look at hooker Hannes Franklin’s two tries, the barn-storming charge for a try by prop Ronnie Uys and the dominance of the whole Pumas pack. But our award goes to Pumas scrumhalf Jacques Coetzee, who dictated terms behind the pack and showed great tactical appreciation to get his team on the front foot.
For the Pumas:
Tries: Franklin 2, Uys, Kettledas 2, Scott
Cons: Pretorius 4
Pens: Pretorius 2
DG: Van Wyk
For the SWD Eagles:
Pens: Croy 3, Du Toit
Yellow card: Ronnie Uys (Pumas, 9 – foul play, shoulder charge)
Article courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet