The Toyota Cheetahs deserved their title - their first since 2019 - and although the magnificent Airlink Pumas once again demonstrated their intensity and resilience, Hawies Fourie’s team always had the answers and never seemed to be taken entirely out of their comfort zone.

It was close throughout however and had the entranced Toyota Stadium crowd of 33 804 often on the edge of its proverbial seat, but there was to be no repeat of the defending champions’ eyebrow-raising 61-21 victory at this same ground in March.

Instead, the power of the Toyota Cheetahs pack at the set phase, the steady boot and direction of veteran flyhalf Ruan Pienaar, and hungry defence in front of their own fans saw them deliver a champion’s performance.

The moment the new champions put one hand on the 132-year-old trophy probably came two minutes before the break with the Toyota Cheetahs’ second try. They were never headed in the match but at that point they opened a seven-point lead for the first time and although the visitors were to close to just one during the second half, the Cheetahs always had control.

Up until that point Pienaar and Airlink Pumas flyhalf Tinus de Beer had exchanged two penalty goals apiece and each team had scored a solitary try to leave the scores level at 11-11. Reinhardt Fortuin (centre) got the hosts' first from no more than a metre when he stretched out to ground after a succession of pick-and-go’s after 30 minutes.

The never-say-die Airlink Pumas hit back four minutes later with a skillful score from centre Ali Mgijima who took a scoring pass at close range from right wing Andrew Qamani Kota, collecting a De Beer kick-pass and immediately offloading to his overlapping colleague.

But the breakthrough moment came just before half time. That Toyota Cheetahs pack power allowed them to rumble a driven lineout maul for 20 metres to just short of the goal-line. The pick-and-go option was ignored however, and the ball was swung quickly to the left where wing Cohen Jasper dived in joyously for a crucial score wide out. Pienaar, who had missed an early conversion from the same place, was on target the second time.

De Beer hit back with his third and fourth penalty goals at the start of the new half, but the hosts edged themselves two scores ahead with a third try – sweetly converted from the touchline by Pienaar – after 52 minutes. Scrumhalf Rewan Kruger darted in from five metres in the left-hand corner after the ball popped unexpectedly loose from a driving maul.

There were thrills and spills from there to the final whistle with the clearest winner being the Toyota Cheetahs’ defence which repeatedly confounded attacking positions of the visitors, either by wining the turnover or forcing the error.

De Beer missed the chance to add a fifth penalty with four minutes to go to close the gap to a single score  as the party began to ratchet up as the final whistle sent the crowd into raptures.


Toyota Cheetahs 25 (18) – Tries: Reinhardt Fortuin, Cohen Jasper, Rewan Kruger. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (2). Penalty goals: Pienaar (2).

Airlink Pumas 17 (11) – Try: Ali Mgijima. Penalty goals: De Beer (4).