The Bulls claimed a scrappy yet important 23-18 win over the Cheetahs in Pretoria on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
At one stage, the Bulls were well placed to secure a comfortable victory as well as a try-scoring bonus point. After 30 minutes, they held a 15-3 lead. At that point, Cheetahs No 8 Paul Schoeman was still in the sin bin.
Incredibly, the Cheetahs hit back in the dying stages of the first half. Sergeal Petersen rounded off some enterprising play to score a try in the right-hand corner. Niel Marais nailed a couple of penalty goals to leave the visitors trailing just 20-13 at half-time.
The standard of play during the first stanza was anything but inspiring. Both teams were guilty of elementary errors. The decision-making was especially poor.
The second half was another story, at least as far as set-piece accuracy was concerned. The Cheetahs lifted their game at both the scrum and the lineout.
They won a crucial scrum in the 48th minute, and then pressured the Bulls into conceding a penalty. The Cheetahs kicked the ball to touch and set the lineout. From there, they executed well to maul the Bulls over the tryline. Torsten van Jaarsveld was credited with the score, but the five-pointer was down to the efficiency of the Cheetahs pack as a whoie.
Tian Schoeman goaled a penalty to give the Bulls some breathing room at 23-18. The Bulls flyhalf had another opportunity to extend the lead in the 66th minute, but only succeeded in pushing the attempt wide.
Fortunately for the hosts, the Cheetahs blew a similar chance at the other end of the field. Marais missed a shot from right in front.
The momentum shifted again in the final 10 minutes. The Bulls endeavoured to spend that period deep down in Cheetahs territory. The visitors coughed up possession on several occasions.
In the end, the Bulls did enough to secure the result. While the Cheetahs claimed a bonus point for finishing within seven points, they will be disappointed that they didn't use their scrum dominance to greater effect.
Bulls – Tries: RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Jamba Ulengo. Conversion: Tian Schoeman. Penalties: Schoeman (2).
Cheetahs – Tries: Sergeal Petersen, Torsten van Jaarsveld. Conversion: Niel Marais. Penalties: Marais (2).
Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha/Nic de Jager, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Lappies Labuschagne, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 SP Marais.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Segeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Johan Coetzee, Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Hilton Lobberts, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images