The Steval Pumas were crowned Vodacom Cup champions after they completed a 24-7 (halftime 19-0) win over DHL Western Province in the final at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
The win saw the Pumas secure their first Vodacom Cup title after they were losing finalists in 2013 and they upset the form book as they inflicted the first defeat of the season on Western Province, the 2012 champions.
The Nelspruit-based Pumas ran in three first-half tries while their defensive work throughout the match was immense while Province were stymied by their inability to string together any meaningful passages of play.
The helter-skelter opening exchanges saw both teams’ flyhalves miss early penalty attempts but the Pumas’ forwards were starting to gain ascendency and they finally took advantage when flank Marnus Schoeman flopped over the tryline for an unconverted score after a powerful maul that gained 22 metres.
The heavy conditions underfoot were forcing both teams to keep the ball among the forwards and Western Province turned down two kickable penalties in favour of kicking for the corner to set up attacking lineouts.
However, the decision backfired as the Pumas’ defence held on both occasions while the visitors were winning the battle at the breakdown as Province conceded five turnovers in the first half.
Western Province were left rueing their decision to turn down the kickable penalties when the Pumas turned defence into attack as lock Rudi Mathee took an inside pass from pivot JC Roos, after good work in the build up from scrumhalf Reynier van Rooyen, before cantering over for a converted try in the 31st minute.
The Pumas’ forwards continued to dominate the contest and a lineout five metres from the host’s tryline resulted in loosehead prop Khwezi Mona diving over from close range for his first Vodacom Cup try.
Roos nailed the touchline conversion as the Pumas eased to a 19-0 lead with two minutes left in the half.
Province finally got on the scoreboard after 11 minutes of the second half when they were awarded a penalty try after Schoeman was yellow carded for a pulling a maul down with Province just short of the Pumas tryline.
Despite their numerical advantage the hosts were unable to break down the superb Pumas’ defence.
The visitors finally made sure of the win when Schoeman was mauled over for his second try with just seconds left in the game.
DHL Western Province – Penalty Try; Conversion: Robert du Preez.
Steval Pumas – Tries: Marnus Schoeman (2), Rudi Mathee, Khwezi Mona; Conversions: JC Roos (2).