The Pumas and Cheetahs played out a pulsating 37-all draw in their Currie Cup clash at a hot and humid Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit on Saturday afternoon.
The Pumas asserted an early dominance in the scrums with fly-half Justin van Staden punishing the Cheetahs front row with two penalties although Sias Ebersohn pulled a penalty back for the visitors with the score at 6-3 after 20 minutes.
The Pumas went over for the game's first try in the 23rd minute when flanker Jaco Bouwer crossed the tryline from a driving maul after Rayno Benjamin was yellow-carded for dangerous tackle on Rosko Specman.
Van Staden converted to give the home side a 13-3 lead with just over 15 minutes remaining in the first half but the Cheetahs hit back with two tries in two minutes just past the half hour mark.
First winger Sergeal Petersen dived over in the corner then Springbok flank Oupa Mohoje crossed the chalk after a swift counter-attack by the Cheetahs from deep inside their own half from the kickoff.
The Cheetahs were now leading 17-13, but Van Staden slotted another penalty two minutes before half-time to reduce the deficit to one point.
The visitors however extended their lead at the interval when centre Francois Venter dived over after Benjamin made a break through the heart of the Pumas defence. Ebersohn converted to give the Cheetahs a 24-16 halftime lead.
The first points of the second half was scored by Cheetahs number eight De Wet Kruger who barged over from a driving maul in the 52nd minute for the Cheetahs' four-try bonus point, and although Ebersohn missed the conversion they had a healthy 13-point lead.
In keeping with the topsy-turvy nature of the game, Pumas replacement prop De-Jay Terblanche went over after the forwards and back combined to give the Pumas good go-forward ball. Freddy Ngoza thought he gave the Cheetahs victory when he forced his way over with just minutes left, Neil Marais converted the try to give the visitors a 37-30 lead with four minutes remaining.
Benjamin however was red-carded for an infringement at a breakdown when the Pumas were on attack with two minutes left on the clock, and with the extra man Rudi Mathee dived over for the Pumas fourth try which Van Staden converted to level the scores.
Both teams take three points from the game, two each for the draw and while both sides scored a four-try bonus point.
Try: Bouwer, Terblanche, Schoeman, Mathee
Con: Van Staden 4
Pen: Van Staden 3
Try: Petersen, Mohoje, Venter, Kruger, Ngoza
Con: Ebersohn 3
Pen: Ebersohn 1, Marais 1
Pumas: 15 John-Wessel Bell, 14 Jerome Pretoius, 13 Hoffmann Maritz, 12 Stefan Watermeyer (captain), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Jason-Colin Fraser, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Jaco Bouwer, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Corné Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Rudi Mathee, 19 Marnus Schoeman, 20 Reynier van Rooyen, 21 Hennie Skorbinski, 22 Bernardo Botha
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 De Wet Kruger, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Reniel Hugo, 3 Luan De Bruin, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Teunis Nieuwoudt .
Replacements: 16 Chase Morison, 17 Burrie Gildenhuys Uys, 18 Willem Serfontein, 19 Freddy Ngoza, 20 Ruan Van Rensburg, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Adriaan van der Berg Coertzen.
Date: Saturday, October 3
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 13.15 local (11.15 GMT)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Referees: Jaco Pretorius, Pieter Maritz
TMO: Willie Vos