Morne Steyn contributed 19 points as the Bulls took down the Sharks 43-9 in Pretoria on Saturday to extend their Rainbow Cup SA winning streak to three matches.
Gameflow: This top-of-the-table clash was touted as the matchup of the weekend, but failed to live up to expectations – at least in terms of attacking play. Defensively, both teams were rather good.
In a static first half, the sides were locked at six apiece as the match approached the opening 30 minutes, but Morne Steyn struck a double blow with two quick penalties to put the hosts up by six. However, that advantage was reduced in half when Curwin Bosch succeeded with his third attempt off the tee.
Apart from the goalkicking exchanges, the Bulls had the upper hand in the scrums in the first half, with Sharks front-rower Ox Nche scrummed into the ground in the first half.
The early stages of the second half was a repeat of the first, with neither team seemingly able to win outright ascendancy. But as the match progressed, the Bulls wrestled all the momentum and, as the pressure mounted, the Sharks’ resistance crumbled. Ultimately, the home side ran in four second-half tries to seal a bonus-point win.
The result had the Sharks slumpin to their maiden defeat of the campaign, while the Bulls are now the only unbeaten side remaining in the competition.
Injury setbacks: The Sharks had to contend with the late withdrawal of Sbu Nkosi due to a shoulder injury. His place was taken by Werner Kok, with Anthony Volmink called up to the bench. Fifteen minutes into the game, the Bulls had to deal with an injury disruption of their own when Arno Botha was forced off and replaced by Elrigh Louw.
Bok watch: Unlike last week when it took him a while to get into the swing of things, Duane Vermeulen got into his work from the outset. The Bok No 8 was heavily involved in most of the Bulls’ powerplays up front. His brilliant performance was underlined by a strong carry down the left flank, culminating in the big man ruthlessly bouncing off an attempted tackle from his Test teammate Siya Kolisi. The relentless Vermeulen didn’t let up in the second stanza as he continued to lay into the opposition.
Speaking of Kolisi, the Bok skipper enjoyed another relatively good outing, but he was let off the hook in the first half when he conceded a penalty. He, though, escaped any further sanction for making direct contact with the head of an opponent and did so with force.
Morne Steyn – who has gained increasing backing for a Bok recall – was at his best again. The flyhalf controlled the match by the strings of his boot laces with his pinpoint tactical kicking, accurate goalkicking and precise passing, which set up Stravino Jacobs for the Bulls’ second try. His efforts earned him the official man-of-the-match award.
Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane were particularly good for the Bulls, with the props laying into the Sharks forwards at will.
Best of the rest: Stravino Jacobs continued on his upward trajectory, as he polished off a strong display with another try. The flyer, who has a legitimate case for being the in-form wing in the country, almost had a second but he was hauled in.
Despite playing off the bench, Elrigh Louw had another strong outing at Loftus with the Sharks forwards failing to effectively deal with his abrasive approach.