Bulls charge into final

Flyhalf Tian Schoeman scored 21 points to steer the Blue Bulls to a 36–30 win over WP and into the Currie Cup final, reports JON CARDINELLI​.

The Bulls’ win at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday sees them advancing to the tournament decider. They will face the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein next week.

In the end, it was the flawless goal-kicking of Schoeman as well as a 77th-minute try by replacement scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl that allowed the Bulls to progress. While the hosts had the upper hand at the collisions and breakdowns for much of this contest, their high error count and poor decision-making nearly cost them the game.

Western Province did their best to remain in the fight. Their defence was breached all too easily in the first 20 minutes. WP’s loose forwards battled to match the intensity and accuracy of Bulls players like Roelof Smit and Jannes Kirsten. Lock RG Snyman is another who had a big game for the men in light blue.

And yet, the Bulls went to the break with a narrow 16-10 lead. Robert du Preez kept WP in the game with an accurate goal-kicking performance. A penalty either side of half-time gave the visitors, who hadn’t enjoyed much possession or territory up to that point, hope of winning the game.

The Bulls certainly had their chances to put this WP side away. In the 49th minute, they were camped deep in opposition territory. After taking the ball through the phases, they were caught by an advancing WP defence.

Captain Chris van Zyl made the interception, and then Juan de Jongh linked up with an unmarked Werner Kok on the right wing. The sevens specialist flew down the touchline and rounded the posts to propel his team into an unlikely lead.

Schoeman kicked a penalty to regain the advantage for his side, but then made an error at the ensuing kick-off. WP pounced on the mistake, gaining momentum from a lineout and then breaching the Bulls defence via Jan de Klerk. With Du Preez’s conversion, the visitors moved into a 27-22 lead with 22 minutes remaining.

The Bulls bounced back almost immediately, with replacement lock Jason Jenkins scoring from close range and Schoeman slotting the conversion. But still, WP kept on coming at the Bulls, and a penalty goal by Du Preez edged the visitors into a 30-29 lead with eight minutes remaining on the stadium clock.

WP made a timely steal on their own tryline thereafter. Du Preez, however, only managed to clear the ball as far as the 22m line.

The Bulls maintained their composure. They won the ball at the lineout, and kept the ball close. Eventually they wore down the defence, and when Van Zyl opted to dart down the short side, there wasn’t a WP defender in sight.

Blue Bulls – Tries: Travis Ismaiel, Jason Jenkins, Ivan van Zyl. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3). Penalties: Schoeman (5).
WP – Tries: Nizaam Carr, Werner Kok, Jan de Klerk. Conversions: Robert du Preez (3). Penalties: Du Preez (3).

Blue Bulls – 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Bjorn Basson.

Western Province – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Johnny Kotze, 23 Scott van Breda.

Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images

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Jon Cardinelli