Left wing – and hat trick hero – Malcolm Jaer together with fellow wing Rosko Specman were in sublime form to steer the Cheetahs to a runaway 53-31 win over the hapless Pumas in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon in their first outing of the Super Rugby Unlocked series
Especially in the first half it was at times one-way traffic with Specman and Jaer helping themselves to a brace each before the break and with a halftime lead of 41-3 for the Cheetahs the Pumas could never quite recover.
Specman even had a chance to complete his own hat trick before halftime but decided to give his captain Ruan Pienaar a chance to dot down himself.
Scoring eight tries to four, the Cheetahs attack lost a bit of shape after clearing their bench in the second half, but for squad rotation purposes it was a worthwhile exercise.
The yellow card to replacement hooker Louis van der Westhuizen for dangerous play also wouldn’t have gone down well with coach Hawies Fourie after dangerous play.
The Cheetahs said beforehand they didn’t want to prove anything after losing their ProRugby status but they definitely made a strong statement and won’t easily relinquish their Currie Cup title.
The Cheetahs came off the defensive line strongly to put pressure on the Pumas ball-receivers where centre Frans Steyn stood tall organising the Cheetahs defensive structures.
Pienaar and Steyn, with flyhalf Tian Schoeman sandwiched between them, used their vast experience to steer the attack and acted as the big decision-makers, but first the Cheetahs had to lay the foundation and a strong set-piece did just that which served as the platform for a dynamic performance.
For the Pumas, No 8 Willie Engelbrecht, lock Le Roux Roets and replacement flank Jeandre Rudolph fought a lone battle, while scrumhalf Ginter Smuts scored an opportunistic try when he caught Pienaar on the wrong foot behind the scrum.
The home team started like a house on fire and it was clear they wanted to play the territory game to set up a base from where they could unleash their dangerous runners like Jaer, Specman and fullback Clayton Blommetjies, who was simply on fire.
It brought dividends for the Cheetahs early on with Steyn beautifully delaying his pass to find Blommetjies joining the backline with pace and the recipe worked like clockwork just minutes later for Jaer to complete a brace.
Cheetahs: Tries: Malcolm Jaer (3), Rosko Specman (2), Junior Pokomela, Ruan Pienaar, William Small-Smith; Conversions: Pienaar (5); Penalties: Pienaar (1)
Pumas: Tries: Ginter Smuts, Daniel Maartens, Le Roux Roets, Neil Maritz; Conversions: Eddie Fouche (4); Penalties: Fouche (1)