The Blue Bulls ground out a 48-26 bonus-point win over the Boland Cavaliers in Wellington on Friday afternoon. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
At the start of the penultimate round of action in the pool stages of the Premier Division, the Bulls have put themselves in a strong position to host a semi-final, but they certainly didn’t have it all their own way in Wellington.
At the hour mark, the Bulls in fact trailed by four points, but a composed and physical finish enabled them to bank the desired five log points and briefly move a point ahead of the Free State Cheetahs at the summit of the standings.
And while the Cheetahs did reclaim top spot as expected after securing a resounding win in the later game against the Pumas, the Bulls would still be mighty pleased that they ultimately got the job done after facing a bit of a scare in Wellington.
On a beautiful afternoon, proceedings initially appeared set to go according to the expected script, with Bulls fullback Ulrich Beyers scoring an early five-pointer after extended pressure, while winger Bjorn Basson cantered over soon after for an intercept try.
All season, though, Boland have proven that they are a gusty team that cannot be trifled with on their home turf, and they duly battled back as flyhalf Theuns Kotze first ghosted through the defence to score under the posts, before Danwel Demas showed good strength to dot down in the corner.
Suddenly, the scores were deadlocked at 12-12, and the Bulls would have been rather grateful to head into the changerooms at half-time in order to regroup.
That break looked to have done them good as they came out with clear intent in the second half, with Tian Schoman adding a penalty and then darting over to score after a strong scrum, which was an area where the Bulls enjoyed absolute dominance.
With this the Bulls opened up a 10-point buffer, but basic errors continued to haunt the visitors. As it was, a handling error enabled Boland to launch a counter-attack that ultimately resulted in a try for No 8 Zandré Jordaan, while Kotze then picked off a poor pass from Schoeman to dart over for an intercept try that sent the hosts into a shock 26-22 lead.
At that point, a major upset certainly looked on the cards, but in their time of need, the Bulls again turned to their powerful scrum to wrest back some much-needed ascendancy.
Indeed, it was from this dominant set piece in the red zone that Roelof Smit broke away to score, while former Junior Springbok Hanro Liebenberg then barged over in the 66th minute to enable the Bulls to establish an eight-point buffer.
Liebenberg then secured his brace of tries as he dotted down from the back of another dominant scrum as the Bulls finally made sure of the result with eight minutes remaining, while Lizo Gqoboka added one more try for good measure.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Ulrich Beyers, Bjorn Basson, Tian Schoeman, Roelof Smit, Hanro Liebenberg (2), Lizo Gqoboka. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (5). Penalty: Schoeman.
Boland Cavaliers – Tries: Theuns Kotze (2), Danwel Demas, Zandré Jordaan. Conversion: Kotze (3).
Boland Cavaliers – 15 Adriaan Carelse, 14 Logan Basson, 13 Gerrit van Wyk, 12 Christopher Bosch, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Zandré Jordaan, 7 Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Keenan Cronje, 5 Joubert Horn, 4 Shaun McDonald, 3 Basil Short, 2 Clemen Lewis (c), 1 SP Wessels.
Subs: 16 Francois Esterhuyzen, 17 Enoch Mnyaka, 18 Francois Hanekom, 19 Wayne Wilschut, 20 Hanno Kitshoff, 21 Gerhard Jordaan, 22 Robbie Louw.
Blue Bulls – 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Nic de Jager, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Jason Jenkins, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Divan Rossouw.
Photo: Thinus Maritz/Gallo Images