The MTN Golden Lions collected their record-breaking fifth title after beating the Steval Pumas 42-28 (halftime 23-20) in a pulsating Vodacom Cup final played on Friday night at the Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit.
The difference on the night was definitively MTN Golden Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, who scored 27 points with the boot.
It was a great homecoming for the former Nelspruit High pupil, who had played his schoolboy rugby in the province. Boshoff had ten successful kicks at goal, which included a drop goal to put the final nail in the coffin of the brave Steval Pumas.
The game started at an immense speed with both sides full of running.
An early penalty by Carl Bezuidenhout opened the scoring before MTN Golden Lions lock Hendrik Roodt was shown a yellow card for dangerous play.
The visitors were immediately made to pay after some slick hands sent centre Stefan Watermeyer away for a try, which Bezuidenhout duly converted.
With only seven minutes gone on the clock the Steval Pumas led 10-0. The MTN Golden Lions sparked back to life when winger Anthony Volmink scored a superb try to take his tally for the season to thirteen tries, with Boshoff kicking the conversion.
Prop Ivann Espag was penalised for collapsing the maul and Boshoff levelled the scores with a successful penalty.
Bezuidenhout then created a try for fullback Coenie van Wyk with a cheeky grubber and nailed the touchline conversion to give his side the lead again with 18 minutes gone.
Scrumhalf Michael Bondesio made a great run off the back off a scrum to nearly score himself, before the MTN Golden Lions' captain Warren Whiteley went over the tryline.
Boshoff kicked the conversion to level the scores yet again with only 26 minutes gone in the match.
Pumas flanker Jaco Bouwer was penalised for going offside and the penalty by Boshoff gave the Lions the lead for the first time in the match.
The biggest kick of the evening saw the team from Johannesburg open a small lead after Boshoff kicked a penalty from 51 metres out.
The final act of the half however was when Bezuidenhout kicked his second penalty to make it 23-20 to the MTN Golden Lions at halftime.
The two teams were obviously feeling the effects of a frenetic first half in which more than a point a minute was scored.
The first score belonged to the MTN Golden Lions when Bouwer was penalised again and Boshoff made no mistake.
Boshoff stretched the lead to nine points after a Steval Pumas player was penalised for a high tackle by referee Marius van der Westhuizen.
Bezuidenhout knocked over a kick for the home team and made it a close game in the final quarter.
Boshoff kicked his sixth penalty before a superb break by replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje saw another Nelspruit born player, Warwick Tecklenburg, go over for a vital try.
Boshoff added the extras and the MTN Golden Lions suddenly had one hand on the trophy, leading 39-23 with less than ten minutes left in the match.
A consolation try by replacement Jerome Pretorius in the 75th minute saw Bezuidenhout miss his first kick at goal before Boshoff had the final say in the match with a drop goal to give the MTN Golden Lions a 42-28 victory.
This victory meant the MTN Golden Lions became the first team to win the Vodacom Cup five times; bettering the record they had shared with the GWK Griquas of four titles.
MTN Golden Lions – Tries: Anthony Volmink, Warren Whiteley, Warwick Tecklenburg. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (3). Penalties: Boshoff (6). Drop goal: Boshoff.
Steval Pumas – Tries: Stefan Watermeyer, Coenie van Wyk, Jerome Pretorius. Conversions: Carl Bezuidenhout (2). Penalties: Bezuidenhout (3).