Pumas execute their plan perfectly to win the 2015 Vodacom Cup

Steval Pumas.

 Each individual player did what was expected of him on the field. There were no weaknesses in the home team’s game.

DHL Western Province won nine consecutive matches on their way to the final. In the process they scored 31 tries and conceded 14. Province were a team that dominated their opponents. Only in the semi-final against the Blue Bulls did Western Province not dominate. Under pressure they battled to adjust their game plan.

The Pumas went into the game hard and fast from the first whistle. Their mission was to keep Province under pressure by spoiling their possession and to denying them attacking ball.

Coach MJ Mentz was full of praise for his team’s execution of the game plan when he faced the media at KMI Airport on Sunday. “During the first half we played like we wanted to. We kept them under pressure. They had not been tested under pressure this season and specifically in the set pieces, the scrums and line-outs, we got the upper hand. They tried to run their way out of trouble and capitalised on this.”

The other key element in the victory, according to Mentz was how the players refused to let the fact that they were down to 14 players for a period of 10 minutes influence the game plan. Ten minutes into the second half Marnus Schoeman was shown yellow for a professional foul, collapsing a maul. Not only was a penalty try awarded to Western Province, but with 12 points separating the teams and the Pumas down a man, this was the home team’s chance to get back into the match.

The Steval Pumas did not budge. Defensive lines were kept. Excellent retention of possession and superb tactical kicking kept Province under pressure. It was a show of supreme confidence in what the coaching staff had drilled into them, and Mentz was rightly proud of his charges.

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The coaching staff expected wet weather and a soggy pitch for the final and made sure that the players were up for the challenge during training last week “During the warm-up it rained and the field was soaking wet. The playing conditions were difficult but we had prepared by wetting the training field last week and dipping the ball in a bucket of water,” said Mentz.

With the Pumas’ keeping the game tight and not allowing their opponents space, and the pin-point accurate kicking from JC Roos and later Justin van Staden, the pitch condition benefited the Pumas more than the home side.

This was the 18th year that the Steval Pumas competed in the Vodacom Cup. In 2013 they lost to the Lions in the final. On Saturday at Newlands the Pumas were in charge of their own destiny. The fact that they had won away quarter and semi-finals gave them the belief that they could dominate away from home.

The scoreline shows that one team was clearly the better. At no stage in the 80 minutes did it look like the Pumas were going to lose.

Under pressure DHL Western Province had little quality attacking ball and made errors. With the Pumas forwards turning over and retaining possession and the solid set pieces, the Pumas scored three first-half tries.

Province trailed by 19-0 at half-time.

A better and more determined home team came out for the second half. But the Pumas absorbed all that was thrown at them and sin-binned Schoeman had the honour of claiming an 80th minute try. The moment finished a long and difficult mission which had started in late 2014. It was a magnificent team effort.

Mathee, playing in his fifth season for the Pumas, summed it up at the press conference. “We always play as a team. Each player knows what he needs to do in the structure (on the field|) and that is the success in winning. If just one guy goes out of the structure then the team won’t function.” These words spoke volumes of what the team, coaching staff and support staff have achieved.

At a press conference on January 11 Mentz said the team had set a goal – to win the Vodacom Cup. The Steval Pumas have delivered.

Fans welcome our boys at KMI Airport.

Scorers

DHL Western Province

Penalty try

Conversions: Robert du Preez

Steval Pumas

Tries: Marnus Schoeman (2), Rudi Mathee, Khwezi Mona

Conversions: JC Roos (2).

 

 

  AUTHOR
Mark Kinnear
Deputy editor

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