The Ford Pumas advanced to the Absa Currie Cup First Division final after a hard-fought 37-30 victory (halftime 22-16) over the Tasol Solar Griffons in their semifinal at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday.
The hosts scored five tries to three but only held a seven-point lead over their opponents after 52 minutes. But the Pumas, who finished second on the log after the league phase of the competition, held on to secure a place in the final against either the EP Kings or the Leopards.
The Pumas made a lightning-fast start to the match as they roared into a 14-0 lead after just seven minutes. Scrumhalf Shaun Venter opened the scoring when he jinked and dummied his way over from 10 metres out.
Directly from the kick-off the Pumas scored again with fullback Coenie van Wyk galloping all of 55 metres before going over for a converted score.
The Griffons could have been forgiven for being a touch shell-shocked but they kept their interest in the contest alive with two penalties from flyhalf Hansie Graaf.
The Pumas soon re-established their superiority when flank Jaco Bouwer was mauled over for an unconverted try in the 26th minute as the hosts moved into a 19-6 lead.
Graaf and his opposite number JC Ross exchanged penalties before the Griffons battled their way back into contention when scrumhalf Inus Kritzinger broke from a lineout six metres from the tryline before showing good strength to stretch out and score in the tackle.
Shortly before the break Van Wyk was yellow-carded for intentionally killing the ball but the Pumas still reached halftime holding a 22-16 lead.
Despite being a man down, the Pumas made a good start to the second half with an early penalty from Roos and a few minutes later outside centre Jerome Pretorius was on hand to go over in the left-hand corner to round off a sweeping backline move.
But the Griffons showed their fighting qualities once again and they hit back in the 52nd minute, when left wing Shane Hancke went over in the corner for a converted try after good build-up play by fullback Reinhardt Erwee.
The score saw the Griffons narrow the deficit to just seven points but as the match entered the final quarter the Pumas took the ball through six phases before inside centre JW Jonker slid over in the right-hand corner for a converted try.
The try made sure of the win but the Griffons did manage a consolation score when replacement prop Rudi Britz rumbled over after the final hooter had sounded.
Ford Pumas – Tries: Shaun Venter, Coenie van Wyk, Jaco Bouwer, Jerome Pretorius, JW Jonker; Conversions: JC Roos (3); Penalties: Roos (2).
Griffons – Tries: Inus Kritzinger, Shane Hancke, Rudi Britz; Conversions: Hansie Graaf (3); Penalties: Graaf (3).