A tryline blunder from Juarno Augustus allowed the Vodacom Bulls to escape with a 34-29 win over the Stormers at Loftus on Friday night.
Last-minute error: The Bulls look assured of victory when they led 34-26 late in the game, but Stormers replacement Tim Swiel knocked over a penalty to bring the Cape side within try-scoring range. After the match went well over regulation time, Augustus broke through unopposed and only had to dot the ball down to bring the scores level. From the position he was in, the conversion would have been virtually assured. Yet almost unbelievably, the Stormers back-rower lost the ball forward in a rookie error as he attempted to ground the ball. With that, the Bulls were able to come away with what turned out to be an undoubtedly fortuitous victory.
Run of play: The Bulls started well and scored early on through Richard Kriel, but the Stormers grew into the game and looked the better side for the large majority of the opening half. Two tries to Leolin Zas helped open up a comfortable 20-7 lead, although the visitors would have been disappointed to concede a try either side of half-time to allow the Bulls right back into the game. The clash degenerated into a rather loose and scrappy affair from there, but just two point separated the sides heading into the final 10 minutes.
Game-changing moment: With the Stormers leading by two points in the 72nd minute, Ruhan Nel committed a cynical piece of foul play, resulting in a yellow card and penalty try. That looked certain to be the game-changing moment as the Bulls took control from there, but that was before the Augustus error that he will want to quickly forget.
Subplot: While a number of leading players returned for this encounter, most attention was on Damian Willemse. Last Friday the utility back confirmed he had turned down an offer from the Bulls to extend his contract with the Stormers. After a couple of early errors, the fullback became more and more involved in proceedings, but most of his meaningful touches were limited to the first half.
Pre-match prediction: Before this encounter kicked off we asked SARugbymag.co.za readers to vote on the outcome they expected. Over 50 percent predicted the Bulls would win by 11 or more points, but it would be the lowly 2.91 percent who voted for a victory between one and five points who ended up being spot on.
Injury worry: A real concern for the Bulls came late in the game when Stedman Gans was trapped in a tackle, and looked to have hyperextended his knee. It was the sort of sight that suggested the talented centre may have sustained cartilage damage as he had to be helped from the field.
The lineups for tonight’s North-South derby at Loftus Versfeld 📋
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) March 19, 2021