- The Pumas were left heartbroken on Friday night after conceding three tries in 10 minutes to go down to the Stormers.
- The refereeing of Marius van der Westhuizen has been a talking point.
- The Stormers' winning try came off a pass that many believed should have been ruled 'forward'.
It was so very close to being a
night to remember for the Pumas, but it ended in heartache as the
underdogs fell at the final hurdle to go down 42-37 to
the Stormers in Nelspruit on Friday night.
The Pumas, for the majority of the contest, were superior to their more fancied opposition in all departments and it reflected on the scoreboard as they opened up a 37-14 lead after an hour.
Three Stormers tries in the last 10 minutes, however, secured a stunning comeback win for the Capetonians as the Pumas ran out of puff with their lack of experienced depth exposed.
Stormers coach John Dobson admitted that the result was a "burglary" by his side, while Pumas boss Jimmy Stonehouse said it felt as if "somebody had died" in the Pumas changeroom in the moments following the final whistle.
An injury to Pumas flyhalf Eddie Fouche didn't help the hosts.
One of the form players in Super Rugby Unlocked so far, Fouche was left screaming in agony after buckling under a cleanout from Salmaan Moerat and Chris van Zyl at a breakdown.
Stonehouse confirmed to Sport24 on Saturday morning that scans had still not been done on Fouche, but it is suspected that he may have dislocated his hip and his season could very well be over.
One of the major talking points during and after the match, however, was the standard of the refereeing.
Marius van der Westhuizen, one of the country's more experienced referees, was the man with the whistle.
The majority of the confusion lies in the blowing of the laws at the breakdown, where referees are now encouraged to be even stricter on infringements - on attack and defence - and penalise players swiftly in an effort to speed up play.
The moment that buried the Pumas on Friday night, however, came from open play when Stormers replacement lock JD Schickerling released Warrick Gelant for what would be the match-winning try towards the end of the contest.
The pass was sent upstairs to AJ Jacobs for TMO inspection and looked like it may have been forward, but it was decided that the try would stand.
Stonehouse felt naturally aggrieved at the call and while he said he sympathised with referees, particularly given the breakdown law changes, he said the consequences of being on the wrong side of such "50/50" decisions hurt the smaller unions.
"I want to make it very clear that I know it's tough for the referees at the moment, especially at breakdowns," said Stonehouse.
"But we just ask that they be consistent.
"It might be tough for the referees, but it's also tough for us. For us, results like last night [Friday] can be the difference between securing a sponsorship or not ... it's about the players' futures.
"I don't want to come across negatively and, as I said, I understand that it's tough for the referees, but we do need to work together to find some consistency."
While Schickerling's pass was naturally the call that stood out given that it resulted in the winning score, Stonehouse also pointed to the breakdown and not always understanding the decisions that were taken in that area.
It was a tough pill to swallow for the Pumas, who had done everything right up until the last 10 minutes, but Stonehouse said he was largely pleased with the efforts of his players.
"It wasn't nice for us, but the biggest thing is that the players now know they can do it against the bigger unions will all of the resources," he said.
"You need to have that depth at this level and that's what we don't have. The players off the bench must know how important it is for them to come on and do their job, otherwise we’re going to get smacked.
"In terms of effort, I couldn't ask any more ... the guys played their hearts out."