The Blue Bulls kicked off their Currie Cup campaign with a 51-45 win against Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Griquas came into this match as slight favourites, having reached the final of the Provincial Rugby Challenge, but were up against a Blue Bulls team that had been bolstered by a handful of Super Rugby players.
The Bulls also had new director of rugby John Mitchell in the coaching box, with the New Zealander focusing his attention on the team's attack. He would have been pleased with the seven tries his side scored, but concerned about the five they conceded.
The lead changed hands again and again, and it wasn't until Griquas knocked on after the full-time hooter that the result was finally confirmed.
The Bulls scored the first try of the match, in the eighth minute, against the run of play. Griquas had strung together several phases and worked their way up to the opposition 22, only to knock on. Duncan Matthews picked up the loose ball and counter-attacked, taking play up to halfway before finding fellow winger Travis Ismaiel. He pop-passed, in the tackle, to Jannes Kirsten whose switch with Abongile Nonkontwana sent the lock away to score.
Griquas hit back, following another sustained attack that saw them suck in Bulls defenders with a series of pick and gos, before sending the ball wide to Ederies Arendse, who scored in the right-hand corner. André Swarts nailed the conversion to give his side a 7-5 lead.
The Bulls responded with a try from the restart, after a surging run from Warrick Gelant took play up to Griquas' 22. The hosts were penalised at the ruck, and Piet van Zyl took the quick tap and passed to Burger Odendaal, who was brought down just short of the line. Van Zyl picked up the ball and went over under the posts for a converted try.
Swarts then slotted his first penalty, before Gelant's pass was intercepted by Enver Brandt, who raced away to score. Swarts kicked the conversion and added a penalty to put Griquas 20-12 ahead after 24 minutes.
Clinton Swart missed a long-range penalty attempt on the half-hour mark, and the Bulls scored their third try soon after. The ball went wide to Jaco Visagie and the hooker cut back inside to reduce the gap to one.
The Bulls then hit the front two minutes before the break when another relentless attack resulted in a try to Matthews. Tinus Beer's simple conversion made it 26-20.
The to-and-fro nature of the game continued in the second half, with Swarts kicking a penalty and Christiaan Meyer intercepting Burger Odendaal's pass to score an opportunistic try.
De Beer then kicked his first penalty to put the Bulls ahead 29-28, only for Swarts to kick his fourth.
From the restart, Gelant broke away, André Warner was tackled just short of the line and Griquas captain Adriaan Coertzen was yellow-carded for a cynical infringement. Gelant slotted the penalty and then rounded off his team's fifth try at the end of the third quarter.
The Bulls attacked again from the restart, sending the ball wide from deep inside their 22, and good interplay between Franco Naude and Ismaiel put Warner away.
However, Griquas, with 14 men, did manage to score a try when No 8 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg barged over, and Odendaal then had a try in the corner disallowed.
The hosts, restored to 15 men, took a 45-44 lead when Brandt attacked from 40m out, cut back inside past two defenders close to the Bulls tryline and scored a superb converted try.
But Ismaiel went over in the left-hand corner to get the Bulls back in front with nine minutes remaining, and they were able to hang on to their six-point lead.
Griquas – Tries: Ederies Arendse, Enver Brandt (2), Christiaan Meyer, Jonathan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Andre Swarts (2), George Whitehead (2). Penalty: Swarts (4).
Blue Bulls – Tries: Abongile Nonkontwana, Piet van Zyl, Jaco Visagie, Duncan Matthews, Warrick Gelant, André Warner, Travis Ismaiel. Conversions: Tinus de Beer (3), Josh Stander (2). Penalties: De Beer, Gelant.
Griquas – 15 Adriaan Coertzen (c), 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Koch Marx, 10 Andre Swarts, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 7 Sias Koen, 6 RJ Liebenberg, 5 Floris Pelser, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Abraham le Roux, 1 Liam Hendricks.
Subs: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Nicolaas Oosthuizen, 18 Jonathan Adendorf, 19 Wendal Wehr, 20 Rudi Van Rooyen, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Enver Brandt.
Blue Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Franco Naude, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Duncan Matthews, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Boom Prinsloo (c), 5 Abongile Nonkontwana, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 John-Roy Jenkinson, 18 Freddy Ngoza, 19 Shaun Adendorff, 20 André Warner, 21 Josh Stander, 22 JT Jackson.
Photo: Louis Botha/Gallo Images