A Bjorn Basson hat-trick inspired the Blue Bulls to a 46-12 victory over Griquas at Loftus on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
This was typical Bulls rugby. Hard, uncompromising, unattractive but effective. It was enough to secure a good win against Griquas, but if they play like this next weekend, their Currie Cup aspirations will go no further than Newlands.
Griquas arrived in disarray, with a hooker playing loosehead prop and a host of injury problems. The scoreline may look comfortable, but the Bulls toiled for long periods. Too often the Bulls sought out contact, and Griquas dealt comfortably with their one-off runners.
It was Basson that got things started in the second minute, intercepting a loose pass to run in unopposed from 60m. The Bulls were taking the ball through the phases, but it was ponderous and predictable. Jono Ross coughed up the ball in contact and Griquas launched a stunning counter-attack culminating in Ederies Arendse going over to level things up.
Jacques Louis-Potgieter added two penalties before Arendse grabbed his second as he rounded Akona Ndungane and Ulrich Beyers for a well-taken try. Griquas were punching above their weight, but a yellow card to loosehead prop Simon Westraadt for a dangerous tackle halted their momentum.
The Bulls kicked for the corner, and from the resultant lineout captain Deon Stegmann went over at the back of the rolling maul. The Bulls lead 20-12 at the break but coach Frans Ludeke wouldn't have been happy with his team's high-error rate.
Basson went over for his second shortly after half-time as the Bulls capitalised on their numerical advantage. He then wrapped up his hat-trick in the 61st minute as he raced clear down the left touchline after good work from replacement hooker Callie Visagie.
Handré Pollard then showed the skills that make him such an exciting prospect to go over for a try, before laying on another for Akona Ndungane with a well-weighted kick, after Griquas hooker Rayno Barnes saw red for verbally abusing the referee.
The Bulls will now travel to Cape Town next weekend in search of their first finals appearance since 2009. They were run ragged by Western Province when the two met at Newlands earlier this season but, with three consecutive victories under their belt and a certain Handré Pollard at their disposal, they'll be quietly confident of causing an upset.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Bjorn Basson (3), Deon Stegmann, Handré Pollard, Akona Ndungane. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3), Pollard (2). Penalties: Potegieter (2).
Griquas – Tries: Ederies Arendse (2). Conversion: Jacquin Jansen.
Blue Bulls – 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann (c), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Morné Mellett.
Subs: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Wiaan Liebenberg, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Jesse Kriel.
Griquas – 15 Jacquin Jansen, 14 Danie Dames, 13 PJ Vermeulen, 12 Jonathan Francke, 11 Ederies Arendse, 10 Francois Brummer (c), 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Jonathan Adendorf, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Jaco Nepgen, 4 Hugo Kloppers, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Simon Westraadt.
Subs: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Wesley Cloete, 18 RJ Liebenberg, 19 Rudi van Rooyen, 20 Dean Grant, 21 Doppies la Grange, 22 Gideon Le Grange.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images