Rampant Bulls mix pace and power to run around and over Lions
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CAPE TOWN – The Bulls’ new-found confidence on attack combined splendidly with their power game as they ran in six tries to beat the Lions 40-21 in their Currie Cup derby at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday.
Jake White’s team had been more measured in their style of play in winning the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup titles, as well as topping the SA Rainbow Cup log last season.
But the former Springbok coach has spoken at length about wanting his team to be able to adopt a number of different game plans in the wake of their thrashing at the hands of Benetton in the Rainbow Cup final in Italy.
That has coincided with the arrival of Johan Goosen from France as the flyhalf, and the ex-Cheetahs pivot has brought a new dynamic to the Bulls attack.
Other new faces such as centres Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe were also prominent with ball-in-hand against the Lions, and the team’s overall confidence when carrying it up was evident against an outclassed Lions outfit.
The home side flew out of the box, scoring twice within six minutes to set up a 14-0 lead via Vorster and Zak Burger.
The Lions never gave up the fight, though, and imposing flank Vincent Tshituka pulled one back before 10 minutes were played.
But as the game wore on, the Bulls forwards took control, with prop Simphiwe Matanzima a powerful force with the ball and hard-working hooker Johan Grobbelaar all over the park, while their lineouts and driving mauls were efficient too.
They secured their four-try bonus point by the 35th minute already when Burger sauntered over for his second of the day off a strong maul, and at 28-14, it looked like the result had been decided.
The Lions pack found their fire towards the end of the opening 40 minutes, and camped on the Bulls’ try-line with a series of pick-and-go carries.
But that was perhaps the wrong tactic, as even when flank Arno Botha – a late replacement for Marcell Coetzee, who is still recovering from Covid-19 – was given a yellow card for repeated infringements, the Bulls were remarkable in defence to keep the Johannesburg side out.
They played on for seven minutes beyond the 40-minute mark before referee Paul Mente blew his whistle for halftime, and that may have mentally knocked the wind out of the Lions’ sails.
They should have brought electric runners such as Wandisile Simelane, who looked lively as usual in the unfamiliar fullback position, and left wing Courtnall Skosan into the game more often, as they troubled the Bulls every time they touched the ball.
Coach Ivan van Rooyen would’ve hoped that his team would maintain the momentum in the second half, but it was not to be.
Instead, Kriel brothers Richard and David scored within six minutes of each other to stretch the lead to 40-14, and it was too much of a gap for the visitors to make up in the final quarter.
Prop Sti Sithole grabbed a consolation five-pointer in the final 10 minutes, but the Bulls ran out comfortable winners in the end.
White would be delighted with his team’s progress, and with a few more players such as flank Jacques du Plessis and Coetzee to bolster the side, the Bulls will be hard to stop in the rest of the competition.
Bulls 40 – Tries: Harold Vorster, Zak Burger (2), Johan Grobbelaar, Richard Kriel, David Kriel. Conversions: Johan Goosen (5).
Lions 21 – Tries: Vincent Tshituka, Courtnall Skosan, Sti Sithole. Conversions: Jordan Hendrikse (3).