Sublime Cheetahs claw Pumas
They said in the build-up that they did not have a point to prove.
Instead‚ the Cheetahs‚ so unceremoniously dumped from the Pro14‚ didn't just make one point but kept racking them up against the Pumas in their 53-31 Super Rugby Unlocked opener victory in Bloemfontein.
By final whistle it wasn't so much full stop‚ as point well taken by the rest of the competition who will not envy a trip to the Free State capital.
The Cheetahs' forwards outmuscled Jimmy Stonehouse's side‚ while the hosts' offload game at the back at times was simply sublime.
They ran into space with a spring in their step with a support runner ubiquitously on hand.
Fleeter of foot‚ sharper of mind and generally quicker on the draw‚ the Cheetahs put the matter to rest inside the first quarter of the match.
By then they had shot into a 20-3 lead after Junior Pokomela ran in unchallenged.
By the 25th minute Stonehouse sat with his hands in front of the eyes and he might well have kept it there as the home side continued to poke holes into his team's defence.
Rosko Specman‚ who left the Bulls for Bloemfontein‚ scored his first try in the 29th minute‚ scored another three minutes later before gifting Ruan Pienaar‚ and added two more by the time referee Jaco Peyper brought an end to the first half.
The match was a personal triumph for the region's prodigal son Frans Steyn‚ who had left Bloemfontein before he could make his senior debut all those years ago.
Pienaar and Steyn rolled back the years. Pienaar masterfully pulled all the right strings from behind the scrum‚ although his performance wasn't entirely flawless.
Steyn's deft toe-poke yielded the first of Specman's tries‚ while his bullet pass to William Small-Smith to start the second half scoring‚ had vision and precision as hallmarks.
CHEETAHS (41) 53
Tries: Malcolm Jaer (3)‚ Rosko Specman (2)‚ Junior Pokomela (2)‚ Ruan Pienaar‚ William Small-Smith. Conversions: Pienaar (5). Penalty: Pienaar
PUMAS (3) 31
Tries: Ginter Smuts‚ Daniel Maartens‚ Le Roux Roets‚ Niel Maritz. Conversions: Eddie Fouche (4). Penalty: Fouche
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