Shaky Bulls hold off Cheetahs to top Currie Cup log
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CAPE TOWN - They were a bit shaky at times, but the Bulls proved why they are the best team in South Africa by holding off the Cheetahs 39-36 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night to top the Currie Cup log.
Both teams ran in five tries, but the Bulls clinched first position at the end of the league phase of the competition to secure a home semi-final and possible final in Pretoria.
Their semi-final opponents are not yet known, with the Sharks and Western Province still to play the last league game in Durban later on Saturday night.
But coach Jake White will be concerned about how easily his team conceded points against the Cheetahs, who had nothing but pride to play for as they could not qualify for the semi-finals.
The Bulls were 21-14 down after just 23 minutes, with the Cheetahs’ backline finding holes out wide through their quick passing and some clever grubber kicks.
The home side lost wing Kurt-Lee Arendse to a concussion in the opening minutes, with Ruan Combrinck coming on, but opened the scoring soon after that when Lionel Mapoe danced through the Cheetahs defence and put scrumhalf Marco Jansen van Vuren over on his inside.
But the Bloemfontein outfit stormed back, with No 8 Mihlali Mosi and wing Duncan Saal exploiting some sloppy work from the Bulls defence to create a 14-7 lead.
No 8 Elrigh Louw, though, then took matters into his own hands from an attacking scrum, and he burst away to level the scores.
But it looked like an upset was on the cards when Bulls captain Arno Botha was yellow-carded for collapsing a Cheetahs maul, and referee AJ Jacobs awarded a penalty try that put Ruan Pienaar’s team into a 21-14 lead.
The hosts rallied in defence, though, and managed to keep the Cheetahs at bay despite playing with 14 men, with Goosen slotting a penalty to reduce the deficit to three points.
The Bulls landed the knockout punch either side of halftime when they were able to get their lineout maul going, with hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels dotting down twice for a 29-24 advantage after Pienaar also landed a penalty.
#BULvCHE CHAMPION OF THE MATCH: Jan-Hendrik Wessels, after a stellar performance which included a brace of tries, is rewarded once again with the Champion of The Match award. Lekker J-H! #TrueToTheBlue #CarlingCurrieCup pic.twitter.com/yCsfOQMJ22— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) August 28, 2021
The Cheetahs scrumhalf had a chance to edge closer with another three-pointer just before the hour mark, but was unable to convert.
Soon after that, the Bulls virtually killed off the game when wing Madosh Tambwe sped over after a number of strong carries up the middle by the forwards.
At that point, the two required log points to top the log was in the bag for the home team, and even though the Cheetahs surged back in the last 10 minutes with tries by Cohen Jasper and Malcolm Jaer, it was not enough to claim a famous victory at Loftus Versfeld.
Bulls 39 – Tries: Marco Jansen van Vuren, Elrigh Louw, Jan-Hendrik Wessels (2), Madosh Tambwe. Conversions: Johan Goosen (4). Penalties: Goosen (2).
Cheetahs 36 – Tries: Mihlali Mosi, Duncan Saal, Penalty Try, Cohen Jasper, Malcolm Jaer. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (3). Penalty: Pienaar (1).