Cape Town - The Pumas began their Currie Cup campaign with a 43-36 victory over the Golden Lions at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Sunday.
Tries from Nardus van der Walt, Francois Kleynhans, Justin van Staden, Henri Skorbinski and a Gerrit Smith brace proved too much for the Golden Lions who scored through Stokkies Hanekom, Shaun Reynolds, Bradley Thain, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Ashlon Davids.
It was a highly entertaining game in which 11 tries were scored and in which the lead changed hands several times.
Central to the Pumas' victory was their dominance of the scrum which gave them good front-foot ball.
With just three minutes on the clock, Justin Van Staden gave the Pumas a 3-0 lead with a penalty.
The Golden Lions took the lead from the set phase. A well-worked lineout move saw the ball go deep the back of the set-piece. Hanekom ran on to the ball at great pace and sidestepped a few defenders before dotting down.
But the Pumas hit back from the kick-off. Ryan Nell made a busting run in midfield before Smith burst over from close range having run a good angle.
However, Golden Lions flyhalf Shaun Reynolds levelled the scores at 10-10 with 13 minutes on the clock.
Soon after, Reynolds capped off a good team move with a clinical finish in which he threw a dummy and stepped inside and out to dot down. He converted his own try as the Golden Lions took a 17-10 lead after 15 minutes.
This time, the Pumas scored from a lineout move similar to the Golden Lions' first try. They went deep to the back of the lineout and Carel Greef burst through but was brought down just short of the try-line. The ball was recycled out to the right where Nardus van der Walt went over on the overlap.
And five minutes before half-time, the Pumas regained the lead, Francois Kleinhans burst over after a series of powerful carries from the Pumas forwards. Van Staden converted as the home side took a 24-17 lead.
Shortly after the resumption of the second-half, the Golden Lions restored parity on the scoreboard. It came from a good sniping run from substitute scrumhalf Thain whose teammates mauled him over the line.
With ten minutes gone in the second stanza, the Pumas were temporarily reduced to fourteen men when Jerome Pretorius was yellow-carded for an early tackle on Madosh Tambwe.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the home side scored a scintillating team try. Scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer took a quick tap and go making 40 metres in the process. A series of good carries and some silky offloads eventually put Van Staden in the clear with the final assist coming from Sias Ebersohn.
However, it was an immediate response from the away side as Dyantyi finished well after an excellent skip pass from skipper Ryan Kankowski.
Tremendous interplay from fullback Davids and winger Dyantyi saw Davids go over for his side's fifth.
But once again, the lead changed hands when Pumas skipper Skorbinski's dummy bamboozled Hanekom who missed his tackle as Skorbinski went over. Van Staden added the extras to make it 38-36 to the home side with 15 minutes to go.
A cross-kick from Van Staden eluded Davids as Smith did brilliantly to collect and hurdle Davids while remaining in the field of play to cross the whitewash and make it 43-36.