The Vodacom Bulls scored a try in the second period of extra time to come from behind and beat the Sharks 26-19 in an intense Currie Cup final in Pretoria on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Bulls won the Currie Cup for the first time since 2009, completing their rise to the top of South African rugby after they had won Super Rugby Unlocked at the end of last year.
It’s a final difficult to sum up, but it certainly had its fair share of drama, including a nearby storm resulting in the game being halted in the 24th minute due to lightning.
The Bulls certainly deserved the win as they showed plenty of heart to stay in the match and punish the Sharks for some questionable decisions in the final stages of the contest. The win was just reward for the hard work Bulls director of rugby Jake White and his coaching staff have put in, turning the team around during last year’s Covid-19-enforced lockdown.
Not that the Sharks should be too disheartened by the defeat. The men from Durban were exceptional on defence and with their breakdown pressure, forcing the Bulls to leak multiple penalties. Unfortunately for coach Sean Everitt and his team, they just could not capitalise when they needed to and questions will indeed be asked of the temperament of some of their key players.
The Sharks will also be kicking themselves for leaving too many points out there, as flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who has been so excellent during the season, missed five penalty attempts. Admittedly, many of those were from long range, but after his performance in the semi-final against Western Province, he set a standard and more would have been expected from the 23-year-old.
After a stop-start first half, which included the 15-minute break due to lightning, the Sharks were able to take a 13-9 lead into the break thanks mainly to a wonderfully worked try by Sbu Nkosi, who showed all of his credentials to beat Cornal Hendricks and acrobatically dive-score in the corner.
It looked as if they had all the momentum in the second half as flyhalf Curwin Bosch kicked two penalties to put the visitors in the driving seat at 19-9.
However, from there, the Bulls would grind their way back into the contest, as a long period of pressure eventually resulted in Arno Botha driving over the tryline for the first of his two tries.
The Sharks had a massive opportunity to extend their lead when they won a penalty near the Bulls tryline in the corner, but captain Lukhanyo Am opted for the maul. This would come back to haunt the Sharks, as the Bulls won a turnover and worked their way back upfield, winning a penalty which replacement flyhalf Chris Smith converted to make it 19-19.
Smith had the opportunity to win the game for the Bulls after they were awarded a penalty after the hooter, but he missed his attempt and the game went to extra time.
Extra time would largely consist of a battle between the two packs and a shootout between the two flyhalves. As if to illustrate the poor decision-making plaguing the Sharks, replacement scrumhalf Sanele Nohambe sent the ball not very far into the air, handing possession back to the Bulls in Sharks territory with just a few minutes left on the clock.
From there, the Bulls again worked their way up to the Sharks tryline, with Botha the hero again by bulldozing his way over the tryline.
Bulls – Tries: Arno Botha (2). Conversions: Morne Steyn, Chris Smith. Penalties: Steyn (4).
Sharks – Try: Sbu Nkosi. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalties: Bosch (4).
Bulls – 15 David Kriel, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Jan Uys, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marnus Potgieter.
Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 JJ van Mescht, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Manie Libbok.
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images