The Steval Pumas scored two late tries to clinch a richly deserved 32-22 bonus point win over the Cell C Sharks in their Absa Currie Cup clash at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday night.
The Pumas were the dominant team throughout, but there was a period when they appeared to have blown it.
That came strangely enough at the stage of the game when the Sharks had been reduced to 14 men when Odwa Ndungane was yellow carded for knocking the ball down as the Pumas built up for yet another attack.
That was in the 48th minute, with the Pumas leading 18-12. The Pumas up to that point showed an overwhelming dominance in every facet of play – they had enjoyed more than two thirds of the possession and a similar advantage when it came to territory.
However, once they had an advantage in numbers, they appeared to lose their minds. Firstly they decided not to kick for posts even though where Ndungane infringed was directly in front of the posts, and then they turned up another kickable opportunity a few minutes later.
At an attacking scrum the Pumas were then penalised for having hands in, and that enabled the Sharks to relieve the pressure.
It did more than that, it appeared to galvanise them, and they turned over a Pumas scrum ball inside the Pumas 22, with new scrumhalf Conrad Hoffmann sending out a long pass to S'bura Sithole that created the space for SP Marais to score in the corner.
The Sharks' running was lateral for that try, but it didn't matter. It did matter on other occasions though, and it has to be said that the Sharks are a million miles away at this point from achieving the attacking potency that they say they are looking for.
Their try was scored off one of the few real opportunities that they enjoyed in a game where they came a poor second.
For most of the game it was the Pumas who showed all the innovation and all the attacking flair, with only scramble defence and some poor Puma handling preventing the hosts from drawing away on the scoreboard.
DESERVED MAN OF THE MATCH
The Pumas led 18-9 at halftime after two good tries cancelled out three penalties from Sharks flyhalf Fred Zeilinga.
The Pumas seemed to be able to easily create the overlap, and they did that when they spread the ball wide from a scrum free kick in the 23rd minute.
Rosko Specman, the busy wing, had space to move down the left, there was some good work from JW Jonker inside him, and then off the recycle near the Sharks line it was big No 8 Renaldo Bothma who powered over.
The second try came just before the break, and was one of the tries of the season so far, with the Pumas sweeping to the left inside their territory four minutes before the break, again for Specman to be freed down the left off great running from Stefan Watermeyer, and flyhalf Van Staden rounding off in the left corner.
The conversion was missed but nine points was a good lead at the halfway point.
The Sharks did play with greater intent after halftime and they got better territory dividends in that period, with it looking as if they may draw away to win once they took the lead.
But then Watermeyer, a deserved man of the match recipient as he was truly outstanding on the night, wriggled through a few tackles to score the try that put the Pumas 25-22 ahead with the conversion.
The Sharks looked spent, but just for good measure the Pumas then capitalised on two good lineout steals that pretty much summed up the night for the Durban side to set up lock Giant Mtyanda, who went over in the right corner to seal the Sharks' fate.
It was the first win by the Pumas against the Sharks in 10 years, and was good enough to justify the elation with which it was greeted by their coach Jimmy Stonehouse.
For the Sharks, who offered so little other than the industry of skipper and No 8 Tera Mtembu and Zeilinga's kicking, it was confirmation that they are struggling at the moment and have much work to do if they want to retain the Currie Cup trophy.
Apart from Watermeyer, there were several stand-outs on the Pumas side, none more so than flanker Corne Steenkamp and No 8 Bothma, while Specman showed his paces on the wing.
Pumas - Tries: Renaldo Bothma, Justin van Staden, Stefan Watermeyer and Giant Mtyanda; Conversions: Van Staden and JC Roos2 ; Penalties: Van Staden 2.
Sharks - Try: SP Marais; Conversion: Fred Zeilinga; Penalties: Fred Zeilinga 5.