Wing Stravino Jacobs scored a brace of tries as the Vodacom Bulls beat the Lions 26-21 at Loftus on Saturday to secure home advantage in the Currie Cup final.
The Bulls will host the final at Loftus next week, facing either Western Province or the Sharks, depending on which team wins the second semi-final at Newlands later on Saturday.
Despite their overwhelming favourites tag, the Bulls were dealt a significant blow before kick-off when outside centre Stedman Gans withdrew due to a hamstring strain. His place in the backline was taken by utility back Marco Jansen van Vuren, with Marnus Potgieter moving to the bench. And yet, despite the disruption, the Bulls lived up to expectations as they marched to the final.
This contest can best be described as a war of attrition between two teams with contrasting styles of play. With a spot in the final at stake, the Bulls’ conservative approach came out top over the Lions’ ambitious running brand.
Earlier in the week, Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said his team will give it a crack and will run the Bulls close if their decision-making were good and they were clinical in execution. On the day, though, neither their decision-making nor their execution were particularly good. Make no mistake, the intent was there from the Lions; but the Bulls’ stifling defence forced the visitors into making errors.
The Lions started brightly, but it was more a case of style than substance. By contrast, the Bulls had enjoyed precious little ball in the red zone in the first half, but struck a crucial blow when 20-year-old Jacobs latched on to a short stab kick from Morne Steyn to score the opening try. The remainder of the first half was uneventful in terms of points being scored, but the Lions’ ill-discipline was punished with Steyn knocking over two penalties, including one in stoppage time, to give his side an 11-0 lead at the break.
Although the Lions were hampered by some basic errors in the first half, they were much better at the start of the second. Soon after Steyn had extended the Bulls’ advantage with a third penalty, the Lions landed a double blow against the run of play to level matters.
Willem Alberts and Wandisile Simelane touched down within the space of three minutes, with players showing a great turn of pace in the lead-up. But that was as good as it got, as the Lions lost the plot thereafter.
They conceded a string of penalties, leaving the referee no choice but to send off both Lions locks for infringements. And with a two-man-over advantage, the Bulls pulled away on the scoreboard to seal the result. First replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar barged over from the back of a maul and then Jacobs completed his try double.
And the young wing could have easily had a hat-trick but, as it turned out, he had one try ruled out after the officials spotted a slight knock- on touchdown.
Be that as it may, the Lions would go on to score a try at the death, but it was mere consolation that at least put some respectability on the scorecard.
Bulls – Tries: Stravino Jacobs (2), Johan Grobbelaar. Conversion: Morne Steyn. Penalties: Steyn (3).
Lions – Tries: Willem Alberts, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2).
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 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Jan Uys, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marnus Potgieter.
Lions – 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Francke Horn, 24 Nathan McBeth, 25 EW Viljoen, 26 Ross Cronje.
Photo: Gallo Images