[Report courtesy of SA Rugby]
The Toyota Cheetahs scored an impressive 53-31 opening win over the Phakisa Pumas in Bloemfontein, scoring eight tries in a dominant display.
The home side scored five of those in a dazzling display of backline play in the first half at the Toyota Stadium to lead 41-3 and had the win sealed at the halfway stage of the encounter already. Credit to the visitors however, who managed four tries of their own in the second half.
It was the Malcolm Jaer and Frans Steyn show in Bloemfontein though. The winger scored twice in the opening 15 minutes and once again in the second half, while Steyn bossed the midfield with devastating runs and typical bruising defence.
Steyn, making his Cheetahs debut, looked like the international class act he is, while another national player, former Blitzbok star Rosko Specman, also found several holes in the Pumas’ defence. The Blitzbok speedster scored two tries himself and had too much pace and footwork for his opponents.
Jaer scored his first after two minutes with a beautiful insertion into the line by Clayton Blommetjies, who made some telling runs from fullback. Skipper Ruan Pienaar converted for his first of six conversions.
The Pumas got an early score through an Eddie Fouche (flyhalf) penalty goal for their only points of the first half. The Cheetahs attacked strongly from the restart and Pienaar slotted his first penalty goal when the visiting defence were trapped offside.
Jaer got his second after 11 minutes of play, this time in the right corner after some delightful interplay by his teammates. A number of passes and good phase play had the Pumas scampering and they could only watch as the winger dotted down untouched.
To make matters worse for the Pumas, captain Ryan Nell cried off with injury in the first quarter of play.
Junior Pokomela (flank) got the third for the home side after just 15 minutes. Again, some beautiful interplay was started with a burst by Specman and Pokomela raced down the touch line to score a delightful try under the posts. Pienaar converted for a 22-3 lead.
The Pumas managed to stop the flow of tries and attacks for a while, but that lasted only ten minutes before Specman ran onto a delicate Steyn grubber after 30 minutes of play, while Specman scored again two minutes later. A speculative Pumas up and under was gathered by Blommetjies, who found Specman on a great angle, with the winger running in from 40 meters out.
Specman once more breached the visiting defence lines with a great run in the final minute of first-half play, passing the ball to Pienaar although already over the line. The scrumhalf scored the try and kicked the conversion to have the home side up 41-3 at the break.
The second half started where it finished for the home side when Specman’s replacement, William Small-Smith raced over for his side’s sixth try. The Pumas got their first one the board when scrumhalf Ginter Smuts grabbed a spilled pass from counterpart Pienaar to score in the corner.
The Pumas got their second through a good line-out variation, with Daniel Maartens (flank) driven over from close range. The Pumas attacked well towards the end of the half and Le Roux Roets (lock) used his strength to bust over the line for his side's third try of the afternoon.
Winger Neil Maritz got their fourth on the buzzer after a good burst on the angle, with the three unanswered tries given the visitors something to build on for next week’s round-two action.
Toyota Cheetahs 53 (41) - Tries: Malcolm Jaer (3), Junior Pokomela, Ruan Pienaar, William Small-Smith, Rosko Specman (2). Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (6). Penalty Goal: Pienaar.
Phakisa Pumas 31 (3) – Tries: Ginter Smuts, Daniel Maartens, Le Roux Roets, Neil Maritz. Conversions: Eddie Fouché (4). Penalty Goal: Eddie Fouché
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Colby Griffin and Ben Crouse
TMO: Stuart Berry