The Vodacom Blue Bulls maintained their unbeaten start to the Currie Cup with a 24-17 win over the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus on Friday night, CRAIG LEWIS reports.
It was the log-leading Bulls’ fifth win in succession, and although it was far from their most convincing performance, they ultimately displayed the necessary composure to grind out a hard-fought victory.
The Cheetahs dominated possession early on, but were unable to convert that early ascendancy into points, with flyhalf Fred Zeilinga missing two penalties in the opening quarter.
Feasting off a turnover against the run of the play, the Bulls then made the Cheetahs pay as they created a try out of nothing in the 20th minute when centre Burger Odendaal finished off some nifty backline interplay.
Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman kicked a 27th-minute penalty before things went from bad to worse for the Cheetahs, when prop Luan de Bruin was yellow-carded for cynical play before half-time.
Schoeman knocked over his second penalty due to that indiscretion, but the Cheetahs impressively responded with a well-worked try to centre Rayno Benjamin to reduce the deficit to just four at the break.
Zeilinga made it a one-point ball game with a penalty in the 44th minute, and as De Bruin returned to play, the Cheetahs had managed to score 10 unanswered points despite being at a one-man disadvantage.
Bulls replacement flyhalf Louis Fouché restored the hosts’ four-point advantage with a 66th-minute penalty, and outside centre Dries Swanepoel effectively sealed the result when he scored soon after to help create a handy buffer.
The Cheetahs were briefly brought back into the game with a late try by substitute Sias Ebersohn, but Fouché knocked over one final penalty as the Bulls held on for victory.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Burger Odendaal, Dries Swanepoel. Conversion: Louis Fouché. Penalties: Tian Schoeman (2), Fouché (2).
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Rayno Benjamin, Sias Ebersohn. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga, Clayton Blommetjies. Penalty: Zeilinga.
Blue Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Jan Serfontein.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Elandré Huggett, 1 BG Uys.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21 Ruan van Rensburg, 22 Sias Ebersohn.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images