Warrick Gelant scored a hat-trick of tries as the Bulls secured a comfortable 30-17 win over the Sharks in Durban on Friday night. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Where has this Bulls team been all season? In a performance complemented by both pace and physicality, the Pretoria-based side enjoyed ascendancy from start to finish to extend their unbeaten Super Rugby run against the Sharks to five matches.
This clash was effectively a dead-rubber, which was reflected in a loose and error-riddled opening stanza, with the Sharks already assured of a quarter-final berth, while the Bulls were only playing for pride in a horror season that had previously yielded three wins only.
Having said that, pride was certainly restored to some degree as the Bulls secured a result that served as a significant statement ahead of John Mitchell’s imminent arrival as their new executive of rugby. By contrast, the Sharks’ confidence will be severely dented as the competition heads into the business end.
It was always going to be somewhat of a lottery to see how the two teams transitioned back to Super Rugby action after the June international break, but it was clear from the outset that the Sharks were the side that looked the most out of sorts.
The first two Bulls tries, scored by Nic de Jager and Gelant, originated from errors by the Sharks, while a soft turnover and defensive disorganisation gifted the latter his brace within the opening half an hour.
The only meaningful response from the Sharks came through a Thomas du Toit try, but there was very little else for a sparse home crowd to shout about, with the Bulls taking a handy 17-10 lead into the break.
On the balance of play, the Bulls would have certainly been deserving of a more significant scoreboard advantage, as reflected by the fact they had completed 366m through their ball carries, opposed to just 224m from the hosts.
Yet the Durban-based side continued to be haunted by ill-discipline as Tian Schoeman slotted a penalty soon after the restart to extend the Bulls' lead, while Sharks winger Sbu Nkosi was then shown a yellow card for a dangerous challenge in the air.
Despite his absence, the Sharks did manage to score against the run of play when Curwin Bosch went over unopposed, but the Bulls hit back immediately when Gelant was put away to complete his hat-trick shortly before Nkosi returned to play.
That enabled the Bulls to restore a 10-point lead heading into the final quarter, while Schoeman extended that advantage with a second penalty in the 71st minute, with the visitors comfortably closing out the game from there.
Sharks – Tries: Thomas du Toit, Curwin Bosch. Conversions: Bosch (2). Penalty: Bosch.
Bulls – Tries: Nic de Jager, Warrrick Gelant (3). Conversions: Tian Schoeman (2). Penalties: Schoeman (2).
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 S’bura Sithole, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Sbusiso Nkosi, 10 Garth April, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tera Mtembu, 6 Philip van der Walt (c), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Marius Louw.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Duncan Matthews, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Kefentse Mahlo, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Conraad Van Vuuren, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Johnroy Jenkins, 19 Shaun Adendorff, 20 Renaldo Bothma, 21 André Warner, 22 Burger Odendaal, 23 Tian Schoeman.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images