The Vodacom Bulls had to fight back against a brave Griquas side to claim a season-opening 30-23 win in Pretoria on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
Despite claiming the win, the Bulls looked a shadow of the team that outplayed the Sharks at the same venue a couple of weeks ago. It seemed as if the hosts had got carried away with the hype from the match and tried to force passes and offloads when they weren’t on, seemingly forgetting to win the battle up front in the process.
Whether it was that or the comical jersey clash which had both sides playing in a shade of blue in the first half, it was not the kind of performance Jake White would have wanted in his first official match in charge.
Credit must go to the Griquas, who put in a phenomenal defensive shift and pressured the Bulls at the breakdown, looking as if they may be set to cause an upset until the final 20 minutes.
Given the nature of the contest that preceded this game, which involved another newbie side in the Pumas conceding over 50 points to the Cheetahs, it was expected that the Bulls would stroll this one.
However, the Griquas certainly came to Loftus to play, opening the scoring through a penalty from flyhalf George Whitehead and new Australian recruit James Verity-Amm’s first try and getting their tails up from there.
The Bulls were able to grab a try just before the break when Jason Jenkins broke the line and put lock partner Ruan Nortje in for a try. It appeared that would give the home side the psychological boost they desperately needed.
Coming out in the second half donning a fresh white kit, the Bulls would have been hoping for a change of tactics. However, it seemed that their jerseys were the only change as the Bulls lost Tim Agaba to a yellow card, before Griquas fullback Anthony Volmink pounced on another forced offload to score an intercept try.
It was clear that White had seen enough as he rang the changes and the Bulls very much changed their approach, focusing their efforts on their scrum, which was boosted by Springbok Lizo Gqoboka’s performance off the bench. That produced almost immediate results as the Bulls won a penalty try. Soon afterwards, match-day captain Arno Botha forced his way over the line and, at that stage, it seemed that the Griquas had finally run out of puff.
However, Griquas still kept their hopes of mounting one final attempt at a stunning result when Verity-Amm scored his second try. Unfortunately, for the visitors, it was just not meant to be.
The Bulls now face a week of hard work as they next meet the Cheetahs, who looked in imperious attacking form against the Pumas.
Bulls – Tries: Ruan Nortje, penalty try, Arno Botha. Conversions: Morne Steyn (2). Penalties: Steyn (2).
Griquas – Tries: James Verity-Amm (2), Anthony Volmink. Conversions: George Whitehead. Penalties: Whitehead (2).
Bulls – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 David Kriel, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Arno Botha (c), 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Griquas – 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 James Verity-Amm, 10 George Whitehead (c), 9 Zak Burger, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Carl Els, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Mox Mxoli.
Subs: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Bandisa Ndlovu, 18 Madot Mabokela, 19 Adre Smith, 20 Zandre Jordaan, 21 Gideon van der Merwe, 22 Ashlon Davids, 23 Berton Klaasen.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images