The Ford Pumas were too strong at home for a disappointing EP Kings team as they won their Vodacom Cup quarterfinal 30-19 (half-time 17-9) at the impressive Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday.
The Pumas were full value for their win, with the Kings behind throughout the match and simply outmuscled and out-skilled by the home side, raising the spectre of serious problems in SuperRugby next year.
The Pumas team were physical, gutsy in defence and took their chances, their reward being just their second appearance in the Vodacom Cup semi-finals.
The Mpumalanga side made a great start as they pressured the EP Kings from the kickoff, leading to a poor clearance. They then rumbled a rolling maul to within sight of the tryline, earning a penalty, which they tapped, prop Ashley Buys then crashing over for the opening try from close range.
Fullback JC Roos, whose powerful boot played an important role in the victory, converted.
EP Kings flyhalf Justin van Staden kicked a good penalty in the seventh minute (3-7), but the Pumas played their way back into opposition territory. They showed their liking for phase play with four rucks set up going left and then another three going right, before wing Deon Scholtz went dashing down the touchline like a greyhound before passing inside for hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld to charge over the line.
Eight minutes later, flank Jaco Bouwer, one of the Pumas' champions, went streaking through a gap in the Kings' defences to score their third try and, with a 17-3 lead, the home side were well on their way to keeping their title hopes alive.
The Pumas defence was at times a little over-enthusiastic and Van Staden was able to kick penalties in the 23rd and 38th minutes to reduce the gap to 17-9 and keep the Kings in the game.
And, the Kings ended the half and began the second playing against 14 men after Pumas flank Renaldo Bothma high-tackled fullback SP Marais and was yellow-carded.
The one-man advantage gave the visitors the opportunity to score their only try, six minutes into the second half, when strong runs by eighthman Jacques Engelbrecht and lock Johan Snyman, and slick work by replacement scrumhalf Boela Abrahams, who gave the Kings some spark, provided Marais with the space to dot down.
Van Staden's conversion made the score 16-20 and the Pumas had been given a little scare. They immediately upped their game and the pressure told on the Kings.
The ball was knocked-on inside the EP 22 by Marais after a risky pass from centre Scott van Breda and, from the scrum in the shadow of the posts, prop Corne Fourie, with the support of Bothma on his back, burst straight through the defences to score the match-winning try.
Roos added the Pumas' remaining points with the conversion and a 70th-minute penalty, while Van Staden could only kick one of the three penalty attempts he was given in the second half.
Ford Pumas - Tries: Ashley Buys, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Jaco Bouwer, Corne Fourie. Conversions: JC Roos (2). Penalties: Roos (2).
EP Kings - Try: SP Marais. Conversion: Justin van Staden. Penalties: Justin van Staden (4).