The Steval Pumas survived a determined fightback by the ICBC Pampas XV in a 10-try fest at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday night to progress to the semifinals of the Vodacom Cup by 44 points to 37 (halftime 27-15).
Both teams scored five tries, but the difference lay in the kicking of Pumas flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout, who succeeded with eight out of nine kicks at goal.
The Pumas will play the winners of the fourth quarterfinal, between the Blue Bulls and EP Kings on Saturday.
The Pumas came out of the blocks at pace, scoring 17 points within the 10 minutes with two tries by the dreadlocked left-winger Rosko Specman and seven points from Bezuidenhout. Specman went on to secure a hat-trick, and could have had another when a brilliant kick-through by Bezuidenhout bounced cruelly. But that was snapped up by Bezuidenhout himself to score.
The Pampas XV, even though they struggled in the scrums and were pushed back by the Pumas’ driving mauls, never gave up and scored two tries of their own through centre Rodrigo Baez and scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli, aided by poor tackling, to go into the halftime break at 27-15. They would look back on the missed kicks by their flyhalf Santiago Gonzalez-Iglesias, who at the end of the night registered just five out of 20 attempts.
The Argentine team, knowing they would be going home if they did not win, came out firing in the second half, scoring a try through flank Benjamin Macome from a line-out drive and a penalty by Iglesias to narrow the score to 27-23.
Even though the Pumas went ahead by a great try from loosehead prop Vincent Koch, who surged through a gap in the backline with surprising pace, the Pampas came back again with another converted try, from fullback Ramiro Moyano, to entertain hopes of an upset at 34-30 with 13 minutes to play.
But their hopes were dashed by Specman’s third try, courtesy of a great break by No 8 Renaldo Bothma, and a resolute defensive effort which kept the Argentines out as they launched attack after attack on the Pumas line.
When they finally breached it in the 79th minute, driving over after several phases, it was too late.
STEVAL PUMAS - Tries: Rosko Specman (3), Carl Bezuidenhout, Vincent Koch. Conversions: Bezuidenhout (5). Penalties Bezuidenhout (3)
ICBC PAMPAS XV - Tries: Rodrigo Baez, Tomas Cubelli, Benjamin Macome, Ramiro Moyano, Manuel Montero. Conversions: Santiago Gonzalez-Iglesias (3). Penalties: Gonzalez-Iglesias (2).