Back-to-back Bulls make light work of Sharks in Currie Cup final
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CAPE TOWN - The Bulls are the kings of South African rugby once again!
The only way the Sharks would have had a chance of causing an upset was to stop the juggernaut Bulls pack, and it was not to be for the Durbanites as they were bashed into submission in a 44-10 Currie Cup final defeat at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.
Jake White’s team became the very first side to clinch the title twice in the same year, following their triumph in the 2020 edition last January, to record the 25th Currie Cup success for the Bulls.
The last time a team won it back-to-back in outright fashion was in 2004, when the Bulls pulled off three in a row from 2002 to 2004. The Free State Cheetahs nearly emulated that feat, but didn’t quite pull it off as they won it in 2005, shared it with the Bulls in 2006 and were the champions in 2007.
Concerns about the absence of star flyhalf Johan Goosen were unfounded as his replacement Chris Smith was a steady influence on the Bulls backline and scored 14 points with his boot on the back of an imposing display from the forwards.
It was actually the Sharks who started the game in more enterprising fashion, taking the ball through 12 phases with ball-in-hand, but there was no way through the blue wall in front of them.
Big No 8 Elrigh Louw set the tone for the home side when he won the breakdown penalty after that early Sharks attack, and that was the never-ending nightmare that the visitors had to endure all evening long.
The Bulls showed patience in defence, keeping their shape and then forcing the turnover either through massive tackles or wrong options from the Sharks backs.
They also exploited yawning gaps out wide from early on, with the first try to Harold Vorster coming after Jeremy Ward – a late centre replacement for Marius Louw – slipped at the wrong time.
The Sharks had more of the possession in the opening quarter, but were unable to convert that pressure into points.
Instead, the Bulls struck when it mattered, with outside centre Lionel Mapoe slicing through for the second try in the 23rd minute off a deft offload by Vorster – although it looked a bit forward.
#BULvSHA FULL TIME: It's back-to-back Carling Currie Cup trophies for the Vodacom Bulls. What a campaign! What a title defense! Well done, boys. Great effort all 'round.— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) September 11, 2021
Final score: 44-10 at Loftus Versfeld - the home of champions! #TrueToTheBlue #CarlingCurrieCup pic.twitter.com/XK62FwzhBX
Sharks fullback Curwin Bosch got his team on to the scoreboard with a penalty, but it was not enough to stem the blue tide as Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee dotted down to take control at 19-3 before halftime.
While the Sharks pack were on the back foot, there was more than enough ball for the backs to play with, but they were unable to vary their attack and eventually resorted to grubber kicks that went nowhere.
In contrast, the Bulls were full of energy and offered much more than just driving mauls or kicking penalties to the posts.
Scrumhalf Zak Burger was a livewire at the base of the rucks and sped up play cleverly with a couple of tap kicks.
Wings Madosh Tambwe and Cornal Hendricks were also busy and chased a few up-and-unders, with one that Tambwe tapped back ending in a five-pointer for impressive young lock Janko Swanepoel.
And when Burger threw a big dummy to the left and darted over to put the Bulls 36-3 ahead, the game was over as a contest.
White will be delighted with the character shown by his side to claim another trophy after the disappointment of the Rainbow Cup final defeat in Italy last season, but he will know that there are more stringent tests ahead in the United Rugby Championship in Europe.
For now, though, the Bulls can enjoy their status as the best team in Mzansi once more.
Bulls 44 – Tries: Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Marcell Coetzee, Janko Swanepoel, Zak Burger, Cornal Hendricks. Conversions: Chris Smith (4). Penalties: Smith (2).
Sharks 10 – Try: Thomas du Toit. Conversion: Curwin Bosch (1). Penalty: Bosch (1).