Blue Bulls down Griquas
The Vodacom Blue Bulls managed to avoid becoming the first major upset victim of the 2012 Absa Currie Cup as a second half rally gave them a hard-fought 35-20 win over GWK Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
On the back of a solid 25-point performance by flyhalf Louis Fouche, the young Bulls side looked rattled by the Griquas forwards and at times were under the kosh but managed to strike when it was necessary to open their Currie Cup campaign with a victory for coach Pine Pienaar.
While it was a cool night and a long weekend, a more worrying aspect for all may be the paltry 4495 fans that turned up for the Currie Cup encounter, a figure that is sure to ignite debates again about whether the competition is being watered down with too much rugby during the year.
However, even on the cold night, the performance would have left a warm feeling with many Bulls, especially with such a young squad in a competition where the team have been decimated by Springbok call-ups.
There will be tougher times for this Bulls side for sure, but the performances of the likes of Arno Botha, Ruan Snyman, Willie Wepener, Francois Venter and Clayton Blommetjies will certainly be remembered for their passion and inspiration.
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Griquas are sure to be a different team on their home ground, and if they can sort out their discipline – a factor that cost them dearly on the evening – they will surely challenge some of the bigger teams in the competition.
After all, the visitors did lead 13-9 at halftime, and had they controlled the game in the same way in the second half they would have probably walked away with the win.
Fouche’s boot failed on just two occasions – both 50-metre monster kicks, one of which started the match off – before former Bulls flyhalf Francois Brummer, put the visitors on the board with a penalty of his own.
Fouche equaled matters, but it wasn’t long before the dangerous Griqua backline found the space they needed to break the Bulls, as Willie le Roux stepped his way past two defenders to offload to Rocco Jansen who scored against his former team.
A moment of madness for Le Roux, gave away most of that advantage as he tipped Bulls fullback Jurgen Visser beyond the horizontal and earned himself a yellow card for his efforts.
In that period Fouche grabbed two more successful penalties to bring his side within one point before a snap drop goal to Brummer let Griquas go into the halftime lead at 13-9.
DIFFERENT TEAM IN SECOND HALF
A totally different Bulls team turned up in the second half, and took the lead early on when Botha made a major linebreak to put veteran Akona Ndungane over for the try.
Two more Fouche penalties stretched the Bulls' lead to nine points before a mini resurgence by Griquas brought them back into the game.
The Bulls were somewhat lucky not to concede a yellow when Snyman delivered a dangerous coathanger tackle that was referred under the new TMO protocols but was adjudged to be only a penalty.
A great lineout drive setup a forward try for Martin Muller and within moments Griquas were within two points of the Bulls.
But Snyman managed to put Wepener into a massive gap and the hooker rumbled to the 22, before offloading to Stegmann, who in turn gave the ball back to Snyman to score under the posts and extend the lead.
All it took from there, with time running out, was for Fouche to hit home the kicks, and two penalties later the Bulls had their comfortable scoreline.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Akona Ndungane, Ruan Snyman. Conversions: Louis Fouche (2). Penalties: Fouche (7).
Griquas – Tries: Rocco Jansen, Martin Muller. Conversions: Francois Brummer (2). Penalty: Brummer. Drop Goal: Brummer.