The Steval Pumas held on to secure a narrow 29-28 (half-time 13-6) win over the Leopards XV in their Vodacom Cup North Section match at Profert Olen Park in Potchefstroom on Friday.
The win ensured that the Pumas will finish top of their section and will host a quarterfinal but they were made to sweat by their opponents who scored a converted try through flank HP Swart with six minutes left in the match to set up a nervy finish for the Pumas.
Both teams scored three tries but in the end the visitors had the boot of flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout to thank for their victory as the pivot succeeded with four penalties and a conversion for a personal haul of 14 points.
The Leopards stayed in third place in the log, on 21 points, but will have to wait until the end of the weekend’s round of matches to see if they are overhauled by the Griquas, on 17 points, and the Golden Lions, on 16 points.
The Griquas travel to the Valke while the Golden Lions host the Limpopo Blue Bulls on Saturday.
The Leopards jumped into an early lead thanks to two penalties from flyhalf Warren Gilbert but the Pumas narrowed the gap thanks to a penalty from pivot Bezuidenhout before they took the lead for the first time, in the 16th minutes, when flank Uzair Cassiem rumbled over for an unconverted try.
The Pumas grabbed their second try 10 minutes before the break when prop Vincent Koch barrelled his way over as the visitors went to the break holding a 13-6 lead.
Gilbert and Bezuidenhout traded penalties within six minutes of the restart before the Leopards took the lead when lock Brendon Snyman was on hand to go over for a try.
Bezuidenhout kicked yet another penalty to push the Pumas into a 19-14 lead but the hosts finally regained the lead in the 64th minute when fullback Hoffman Maritz glided over for a converted try.
Bezuidenhout restored the Pumas’ lead almost immediately with another penalty before left wing Rosko Speckman went over for a converted try in the 69th minute, a score that would prove to be the difference between the two teams.
However, the Leopards refused to give up and they justly grabbed a losing bonus-point when Swart crashed over.
Leopards XV – Tries: Brendon Snyman, Hoffman Maritz, HP Swart; Conversions: Adrian Engelbrecht (2); Penalties: Warren Gilbert (3)
Steval Pumas – Tries: Uzair Cassiem, Vincent Koch, Rosco Speckman; Conversions: Carl Bezuidenhout; Penalties: Bezuidenhout (4).