Nigerian Obi starts Currie Cup battle for Pumas against Bulls

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Johannesburg (AFP)

Nigeria-born Luther Obi scored one try and created two more as the humble Pumas beat the weakened league-winners Bulls 44-14 on Sunday in the South Africa Currie Cup.

Obi, a 27-year-old winger from southeast Nigeria’s football stronghold Aba, kicked off the final round at Mbombela with an eighth-minute try.

Later in the first half, his assists allowed compatriot Etienne Taljaard and flanker Daniel Maartens to score as the home side won 34-7 at halftime.

The pace inevitably slowed down in the second half in a 30-degree Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) inning, with the Pumas scoring 10 more points and the Bulls seven.

Despite the 30-point triumph, the Pumas finished sixth of seven teams in the 129-year-old Currie Cup, the oldest provincial rugby competition in the world.

Assured to dominate the standings after a midweek victory over the Lions, Bulls coach Jake White has rested several of his top picks, including veteran captain and number eight Duane Vermeulen.

2007 Rugby World Cup-winning coach Springbok picked 36-year-old half-fly Morne Steyn but took him at halftime.

Morgan Naude, who produced a series of impressive performances in the Currie Cup, was voted the man of the match.

“I want to share this award with the whole pack,” he said. “Our coach (Jimmy Stonehouse) told us to stay calm and play in the Bulls’ half. That’s what we did. ”

– Deserved reward –

The victory was a well-deserved reward for the Pumas, one of South African rugby’s Cinderella teams, which came close to beating several top franchises this season before overwhelming the Bulls.

Two-time fly-back Devon Williams and number eight Willie Engelbrecht were the Pumas’ other try-scorers and scrum-half Ginter Smuts threw four conversions and two penalties after missing his first two shots.

Bulls hooker Joe van Zyl and center Dawid Kellerman each scored a try, which were converted by Steyn and full-back Clinton Swart.

The Bulls will now look to a home semi-final against the Lions in Pretoria on January 23, while the Western Province face the Sharks in Cape Town on the same day.

On Saturday, two-time World Cup winner Francois Steyn maintained an incredible goal-kicking streak as he contributed 17 points to outgoing champions the Cheetahs in a 22-18 win over the Griquas at Kimberley.

The inside center succeeded with all six shots on goal – one conversion and five penalties – to bring to 20 the number of successive kicks he has scored in three matches.

Most important against the brave bottom team was his fifth penalty in the 78th minute as he widened a 19-18 lead to four points and doomed the Griquas to a winless season.

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