The Bulls outclassed the Sharks at Kings Park on Saturday to deservedly secure a place in the Rainbow Cup North vs South final against Benetton Treviso on 19 June.
Key info: Coming into this clash with a four-point lead on the Rainbow Cup SA log, the Bulls needed only a single bonus point from the encounter to progress to the title decider at the Stadio di Monigo.
Bok watch: Most attention would have been on Marcell Coetzee, who is effectively on standby following the injury to Duane Vermeulen. Compared to last weekend’s stunning Bulls debut for the back rower, this was a much quieter performance, but he was industrious on defence and solid when it came to receiving the kick-offs.
At flyhalf, Morne Steyn controlled proceedings superbly on a night to forget for Curwin Bosch, while Bulls opensider Marco van Staden also demonstrated why he has earned a call-up to the national squad despite serving a period in the sin bin.
Yet again, Cornal Hendricks also looked all class, and would have particularly brought a smile to the face of onlookers when he had to pack down at flank and celebrated a scrum penalty after the Bulls had been reduced to 14 men. However, his real highlight was another memorable solo try in the first stanza.
Matchflow: In a largely forgettable first half that was far from free-flowing, it was the Bulls who somehow hung on to a 13-10 lead.
One try against the run of play, albeit an impressive effort from Hendricks, was the one highlight for the visitors as he outpaced Curwin Bosch in a dash for the line after a chargedown.
However, the Sharks would have been left lamenting missed opportunities. In search of a bonus-point victory, the home side had more than enough opportunities, but key errors in the red zone proved costly.
And, as so often has been the case this season, the Bulls came out after the break and asserted their authority through percentage play. Dawid Kriel scored through a quick tap, and while the Sharks responded through a try to Siya Kolisi, the Bulls hit back immediately with a set-piece special as Stravino Jacobs finished off a lineout move to extend the lead to 27-15.
On the hour mark, Janko Swanepoel scored his side’s fourth try and secured the required bonus point for the Bulls to secure progression to the Rainbow Cup final with 20 minutes still to play.
Subplot: Just before kick-off, the Sharks announced that some late changes had been necessitated up front.
‘We had a challenging week choosing a team, particularly in the front row where we’ve had many injuries,’ Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee commented.
An application was put forward to SA Rugby and the Bulls to have Ox Nche and Thomas du Toit play off the bench, but that request was said to have been ‘denied’ by the Bulls.