Handré Pollard scored 20 points in the Bulls' 28-12 win against the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The scoreline suggests it was a one-sided battle, and the Bulls were certainly the stronger of the two sides throughout. They were punished initially for their inaccuracies, as the Stormers scored two tries from turnover ball but, overall, the hosts won the physical battle and ensured that they played the majority of the game deep in opposition territory.
Schalk Burger showed terrific vision and skill to create the space on the outside, while Juan de Jongh and Kurt Coleman then combined to finish the first try. De Jongh showed his class as a finisher moments later when he reached over to score the Stormers' second, and against all expectations, the visitors were 12-0 up after 19 minutes.
But to the Bulls' credit, they never panicked. They stuck to their game plan, attacking the Stormers at the set-piece, kicking the ball upfield, and accumulating points through the accurate boot of Pollard.
The young flyhalf kicked three penalties and a drop goal in the first half. It was a display that allowed the Bulls to go to the half-time break with the score at 12-12.
The Stormers buckled at scrum time, while their lineout ball was often disrupted by Victor Matfield and company. The pressure exerted at the collisions and breakdowns also told, as the Stormers continued to concede penalties early in the second stanza.
Francois Hougaard and Pollard thrived behind a dominant pack and it was the scrumhalf who produced the kick that put the game beyond the Stormers. The grubber was well read and chased by Bulls winger Akona Ndungane, and Pollard's conversion took the Bulls to a commanding 25-12 lead.
Replacement Jacques-Louis Potgieter added a further penalty in the dying stages, although it only served to increase the margin of victory. It wasn't a performance without error, but the Bulls will be pleased that they maintained their composure after an early setback, and then kept the Stormers scoreless for all of 61 minutes.
Bulls – Try: Akona Ndungane. Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (5), Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Drop goal: Pollard.
Stormers –Tries: Kurt Coleman, Juan de Jongh. Conversion: Coleman.
Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Wimpie van der Walt, 21 Rudy Paige, 20 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 21 William Small-Smith.
Stormers – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Peter Grant, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger (c), 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Brok Harris.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Deon Fourie, 21 Dylon Frylinck, 22 Michael van der Spuy, 23 Devon Williams.
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While Juan de Jongh and Schalk Burger produced some thrilling attacking touches early on, Handré Pollard's cool goal-kicking ensured that the Bulls got back into the contest and eventually reclaimed the lead.
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Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images