The Vodacom Bulls capped their title-winning Super Rugby Unlocked campaign with a hard-fought 21-5 victory over the Pumas in Pretoria on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Bulls had come into the game with one hand already on the Super Rugby Unlocked trophy, given that they were top of the table and the game between the chasing Stormers and Sharks had been cancelled.
Jake White’s charges started with plenty of intensity, mixing it up well between their forwards and backs and racing into a 21-0 lead in the first 25 minutes.
It must be said that the Pumas were playing their first match since round four of the competition, having had a bye week before their camp was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
With that in mind, the men from Nelspruit could easily have crumbled after falling so far behind, but they showed plenty of heart to turn the second half into a real dogfight.
The most pleasing aspects for the Bulls will be from the first half, where wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and flyhalf Chris Smith – getting his first start in veteran Morne Steyn’s absence – both enjoyed the amount of momentum the pack was giving them. Both Arendse and Smith scored a try each as they exploited gaps in the Pumas defence after long periods in the visitors’ 22-metre area.
The Pumas made a much better start to the second half, coming out of the tunnel with increased intensity and quickly got back into the game with a rolling maul allowing HP van Schoor to score. The first half was virtually turned on its head in the second period as it was the Bulls who started to concede penalties and make all the errors.
While the Pumas tried to add to the score, the second half, unfortunately, did degenerate into a bit of a scrap, with neither side able to put consistent phases together.
Bulls – Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Chris Smith, Ivan van Zyl. Conversions: Smith (3).
Pumas – Tries: HP van Schoor.
Bulls – 15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Theo Boshoff, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Willem Engelbrecht, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (c), 4 Darrien Landsburg, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 HP van Schoor, 1 Morgan Naude.
Subs: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Ig Prinsloo, 18 Brandon Valentyn, 19 Daniel Maartens, 20 Ginter Smuts, 21 Ali Mgijima, 22 Tapiwa Mafura, 22 Liam Hendricks.
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images