The Blue Bulls moved into the top four on the Currie Cup log with a 37-6 bonus-point win against the Pumas in Nelspruit, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
For most of this campaign it has looked as if the Pretoria side would fail to reach the semi-finals for a second consecutive season. But they have fought back well in recent weeks, and a win against Griquas at Loftus next Saturday should seal their play-off spot.
The Pumas, who have now slipped to fifth, need to beat the EP Kings in PE in their final league match and hope other results go their way.
While the second half of this match produced some good rugby, the first was a scrappy affair.
The Bulls had the best try-scoring opportunity early on when they went wide from a scrum near halfway and Akona Ndungane broke through the midfield. But he was tackled by Rosco Speckman 10m out from the tryline and lost the ball forward.
Two penalties from Justin van Staaden and one from Jacques-Louis Potgieter saw the Pumas leading 6-3 at the end of the first quarter.
But the hosts suffered a big setback when they lost Renaldo Bothma to injury. No sooner had he left the field than Jacques du Plessis capitalised on some poor defence to score a try from 22m out.
Van Staden was unsuccessful with his third penalty attempt, before the Bulls botched two attacking opportunities. A promising maul ended with an accidental obstruction and an intercepted pass was followed soon after by a knock-on.
Potgieter made it 13-6 with a penalty early in the second half, with Dean Greyling then crashing over for his side's second try following a good break by Burger Odendaal.
Potgieter kicked the conversion, and while his 50m penalty attempt came off the crossbar he made no mistake with one from slap in front, to put his side 17 points ahead.
Replacement Piet van Zyl darted over from a ruck to score the Bulls' third try, and Deon Stegmann secured the bonus point in the 79th minute when he went over from a driving maul.
Pumas – Penalties: Justin van Staden (2).
Blue Bulls – Tries: Jacques du Plessis, Dean Greyling, Piet van Zyl, Deon Stegmann. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3), Tian Schoeman. Penalties: Potgieter (3).
Pumas – 15 JW Bell, 14 Ruwellyn Isbell, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rosco Speckman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corné Steenkamp (c), 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Frank Herne, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 DeJay Terblanche, 18 Uzair Cassiem, 19 RW Kember, 20 Dylon Frylinck, 21 Coenie van Wyk, 22 Jerome Pretorius.
Blue Bulls – 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann (c), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Wiaan Liebenberg, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Jesse Kriel.
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images