The Bulls hit back after Renaldo Bothma’s red card to score a 34-21 win over the Sunwolves in Pretoria on Friday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Bulls are off the mark in 2017. The win against the Sunwolves at Loftus Versfeld marked their first of the year. In that respect, they should be pleased.
In most others, they should be concerned. The Bulls delivered a largely uninspired performance against one of the weakest teams in the tournament. They look set to struggle on their coming tour to New Zealand.
The hosts battled at the collisions and breakdowns in the first stanza. There was the odd moment of dominance – the buildup to Pierre Schoeman’s try after a lineout maul being the best example – but otherwise the Bulls battled in the physical stakes.
The Sunwolves exposed the Bulls’ poor organisation on defence at the stroke of half-time. Kenki Fukuoka scored a try to see the visitors trailing 17-14 at the break.
The Japanese side was handed a further opportunity after Bothma received his marching orders in the 41st minute. The flanker flung an arm at Sunwolves captain Ed Quirk, and connected on the chin.
Replays confirmed that while Quirk was upright in the tackle, Bothma made no attempt to keep his tackle attempt low. In the end, it was an easy decision for the referee and the Bulls were forced to play the remaining 39 minutes with 14 men.
Somehow this served to galvanise the Bulls. Jason Jenkins scored a try for the hosts, and successful goal kicks by Handré Pollard and Tian Schoeman stretched the Bulls’ lead to 13 points.
The Bulls continued to make bad mistakes, though. Jenkins ghosted through a gap and then dropped the ball when reaching for the score. It proved a costly miss.
Serfontein crossed the line shortly after that to boost the hosts into bonus-point territory. Quirk scored in the 70th minute, though, as the visitors sought to deny their Africa 1 rivals the extra log point.
The Sunwolves finished strongly to realise that objective. They nearly claimed a losing bonus point when Liaki Moli scored after full-time, but the TMO ruled that the ball had been lost forward.
Bulls – Tries: Jan Serfontein (2), Jason Jenkins, Pierre Schoeman. Conversions: Handré Pollard (3), Tian Schoeman. Penalties: Pollard, Schoeman.
Sunwolves – Tries: Kenki Fukuoka, Ed Quirk. Conversion: Jumpei Ogura. Penalties: Hayden Cripps (3).
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Handre Pollard (c), 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboko, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Sunwolves – 15 Shota Emi, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Cripps, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Shumei Matsuhashi, 6 Ed Quirk (c), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Yasuo Yamaji, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Koki Yamamoto.
Subs: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Jumpei Ogura, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images