The iCollege Pumas kept their unbeaten record intact as they despatched the Vodacom Blue Bulls XV 30-24 (halftime 20-19) in their SuperSport Rugby Challenge quarterfinal match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Saturday afternoon.
The men from the lowveld did well to hold off a resurgent Blue Bulls outfit as the visitors outscored their hosts four tries to three but it was the boot of flyhalf Chris Smith that saved the day yet again.
The Blue Bulls started the match with a clear goal in mind and racked up two early tries courtesy of fullback Earll Douwrie and wing Xolisa Guma in the 8th and 11th minute respectively. Flyhalf Tinus de Beer was on hand to convert Douwrie’s five pointer.
The hosts clawed their way back into the first half with flank and captain Jeandre Rudolph crossing the whitewash eight minutes later before tighthead prop Marne Coetzee followed suit in the 24th minute. Smith made no mistake with the boot as he converted both tries and added a penalty goal to give the Pumas a 17-12 lead with halftime approaching.
The men from Pretoria wasted very little time on attack with their efforts being rewarded as loosehead prop Dewald Maritz burrowed his way over the tryline. Douwrie’s conversion made it a two point game with four minutes left on the clock but their lead was short lived as Smith landed a penalty goal to give his charges a slender 20-19 at the break.
The Pumas continued to grind away at the scoreboard in the second half with Smith adding another penalty goal to his tally just minutes after the match resumed.
Both teams tightened up on defence as the match withered into a hard tussle with neither team exerting influence on proceedings.
Replacement hooker Frankie Herne broke the deadlock in the 69th minute as he touched down for a try and replacement utility back Justin van Staden’s conversion sailed through the uprights as the hosts made better use of their opportunities in the second half.
It was the visitors who would have the final say as Guma scored his second try but it was not enough as the Pumas held on to secure a hard fought 30-24 win over their Pretoria counterparts and secured safe passage into the SuperSport Rugby Challenge semifinals.
iCollege Pumas – Tries: Jeandre Rudolph, Marne Coetzee, Frankie Herne; Conversions: Chris Smith (2), Justin van Staden; Penalties: Smith (3).
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Earll Douwrie, Xolisa Guma (2), Dewald Maritz; Conversions: Tinus de Beer, Douwrie.