Bulls demolish Cheetahs
The Vodacom Bulls sounded a massive warning to the rest of the tournament contenders by totally demolishing the Toyota Cheetahs 51-19 on their home ground in their Vodacom Super Rugby match on Saturday.
The magnitude of the victory could well be argued to have flattered the Cheetahs, especially as the Bulls fluffed several chances and for the last 20 minutes had to play with 14 men after losing Francois Hougaard to a red card for a tip tackle.
In fact, in the last five minutes the Bulls were down to 13 as Jacques Potgieter was given a yellow card for tackling without arms as he put in a big hit against Bok flanker Heinrich Brussow.
Hougaard will now have to face a Sanzar disciplinary, but can, as part of the new laws around the judicial process, accept a guilty plea within four hours of being informed by the judicial officer’s early impression of the verdict and then get a discount on the sentence.
But, either way, it is likely that he will have to miss the Bulls' next game against the Blues at Loftus Versfeld next week.
The Bulls dominated from the start, laying the foundation with an aggressive performance by their tight five as they looked clinical and direct, making sure they competed for every ball and bullied the Cheetahs in the physical exchanges.
But if they are often criticised for being a one-dimensional team, they certainly showed differently tonight. The backline revelled in the amount of ball, with Wynand Olivier showing some deft touches in returning to action and the back three looking dangerous with ball in hand.
And then there was Mr Reliable, aka Morne Steyn, who scored another 21 points to add to his 18 from last week, taking him past the magical 1 000 point mark and becoming the first South African to do so.
Steyn looked confident against Johan Goosen, the young prodigy who scored 14 points but because of his side’s inability to dominate, didn’t get too much of an opportunity to show his skills.
The one Cheetah player who stood head and shoulders above his peers was Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss, who set a standard of play his teammates failed to follow.
But certainly for most of the match it was one way traffic, and with the Cheetahs heading off on Sunday for Canberra, there will be a lot of worried faces at the airport Sunday morning.
After both flyhalves had swopped penalties, it was the Bulls who were cruelly denied their first score when Bjorn Basson rounded off a great bit of attacking play by diving in at the corner. While the television replays were inconclusive, TMO Johan Meeuwesen ruled that Robert Ebersohn’s good tackle had bundled Basson’s legs into touch, even though it could easily be debated otherwise.
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The Bulls took the scrum and attacked again, this time being rewarded as Dean Greyling surged towards the line and placed the ball over the whitewash. This time the TMO had no option, as referee Craig Joubert asked “is there any reason I cannot award a try?”, forcing his hand in confirming the touch down.
But Greyling appeared to have used a double movement in scoring, but Meeuwesen could only answer if the ball was short or if there was a knock on. As there was neither the try was given.
Goosen added another long-range penalty, but it was the Bulls tight five again who made the hard yards, with Greyling again coming close before Chiliboy Ralepelle helped Werner Kruger over the line for the second try.
The Cheetahs barely kept in touch with another penalty, and when they finally got into the Bulls half, the ball was lost, with Hougaard hacking the ball ahead and the Bulls regaining, sending the ball left for Basson to go over for try No 3.
The Bulls added their bonus point try on the stroke of halftime, as Hougaard sent Akona Ndungane hurtling down the sideline, before the final pass was delivered to Kirchner to score under the posts.
At 31-12 up at the break, the Cheetahs changed tactics and tried to keep the ball more in hand, and initially it looked as if it was working for them. But some stern defence -- at one stage the Bulls turned the ball over after 18 phases on defence -- kept the home side from scoring.
And when the Bulls got their opportunity, they took it. Two more penalties added by Steyn and the scoreline was imposing.
Then Hougaard’s card came, and the Cheetahs saw some light at the end of the tunnel. Some spirited play saw Strauss barge over from close range and give his side a flicker of hope of a massive comeback.
But it wasn’t to come, as first JJ Engelbrecht intercepted a peach of a pass from Phillip Snyman and then Zane Kirchner kicked and collected to score under the posts to snuff out any chance of some smiles for the home side.
For the Bulls side, who are still finding their feet after losing several Springboks after the World Cup, this was as much about proving their own ability as sounding a warning to the rest of the competition contenders.
For the Cheetahs, with two losses and being at the bottom of the table ahead of a tough tour, coach Naka Drotske will be searching for something to rejuvenate his side before they meet the Brumbies.
Toyota Cheetahs – Try: Adriaan Strauss. Conversion: Johan Goosen. Penalties: Goosen (4).
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Dean Greyling, Werner Kruger, Bjorn Basson, Zane Kirchner (2), JJ Engelbrecht. Conversions: Morne Steyn (6). Penalties: Steyn (3).