Currie Cup final: Five key moments that decided the title
The home side took a fifth minute lead in the game and were never headed, but the Pumas stayed in the hunt.
The Cheetahs and Pumas in action during the Currie Cup final on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images
The Cheetahs emerged victorious after a thrilling Currie Cup final against the Pumas at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon, clinching a 25-17 win after a thoroughly entertaining back and forth finale.
The home side took a fifth minute lead in the game and were never headed, but the Pumas stayed in the hunt, never allowing the Cheetahs to pull away over the 80 minutes.
Here are five key moments in the match:
Although they did not lead once in the match, the Pumas’ never-say-die attitude was on full display in the game as they kept the Cheetahs in sight throughout.
Flyhalves Ruan Pienaar and Tinus de Beer traded penalties early on with the teams locked at 6-all after 23 minutes. They then traded unconverted tries to make it 11-all after 32 minutes, but a 37th minute converted try to wing Cohen Jasper gave the home side an 18-11 lead at the break.
In the second half De Beer knocked over two early penalties to make it a one point game, but a 51st minute converted score to scrumhalf Rewan Kruger proved decisive in the end.
Strong set piece
The Cheetahs are known for their powerful scrum, but they received a blow heading into the final when experienced loosehead Schalk Ferreira was ruled out of the game due to concussion. That would have given the Pumas a glimmer of hope, however that was squashed out in the match with a strong display from the hosts’ front rankers.
Although not as dominant as they would have liked, the Cheetahs produced a unblemished performance, with a stable scrum throughout that saw them win all 10 of their put-ins over the match.
Pienaar’s educated boot
Former Springbok stalwart Ruan Pienaar was able to celebrate his contract extension with the union in style with a Currie Cup triumph. Pienaar will most likely retire next season at the age of 40, but showed just how important he is to the team with a superb performance at flyhalf, backing up his man-of-the-match showing against the Bulls last week.
He slotted four of his five shots at goal from the tee, saw an early drop goal attempt come back off the post, and kept the Pumas pinned in their own half with some educated kicking throughout the match.
Maul defence and breakdown dominance
The Cheetahs’ maul defence was a key reason that they came out on top, as they kept the Pumas in check during the game. The Pumas are known to be a strong mauling team, but they were unable to get any purchase on it in the final with the Cheetahs rock solid, not giving them any go forward.
Their dominance at the breakdown was another key part of the game for the home side as they earned a number of penalties at it. The defining moment was also a late steal with the Pumas desperately trying to keep themselves in the game as time ran out.
Late penalty miss
It turned out to be the defining moment in the match, as a late penalty miss from Pumas flyhalf Tinus de Beer kept them more than a converted try behind during the closing moments. His 75th minute shot at goal was his second miss of the night, having nailed four previous penalties while missing a touchline conversion attempt in the first half.
The chance wasn’t massively tough, but it was a bit far out and towards the righthand touchline. But De Beer seemed to have picked up a knock to his knee earlier in the half, which may have contributed to the miss, and the eight point deficit in the final minutes was too much to overcome.