Bulls' Fouche boots Sharks to defeat
The Vodacom Blue Bulls bounced back from one of their toughest weeks yet to score a stunning and unexpected victory over the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld, winning 42-31.
The Sharks arrived at Loftus Versfeld unbeaten, fresh from victories over the Lions and WP against a side who had struggled the whole week to simply have a practice session.
After their defeat in Bloemfontein, the Bulls returned to find the bulk of their side under the weather, down with flu and only on Thursday managed to run through their moves after a week from hell in the run-up to this fixture.
But with a passionate performance, and riding on the back of a superb all-round performance by flyhalf Louis Fouche, the home side managed to confound the odds and pull off the victory with a young team full of talent.
Fouche, the 22-year-old understudy to Bok flyhalf Morne Steyn, put in such a dominant performance that it made one wonder why the Bulls never employed him more in the Super Rugby tournament.
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From his long-range drop goals – one sailed in from more than 50 metres out – to his flawless kicking and effortless distribution game, Fouche contributed 27 points on a night where his side really needed them.
In the first half, where they were battering away without too much reward, it was Fouche’s boot that nudged them ahead at ever time.
Even when the Sharks went into the break 14-12 ahead, the Bulls returned with a monster Fouche drop goal to retake the lead thanks to the Rustenburg-born-and-bred player’s boot.
But the Bulls side powered on in the second half, especially when they were expected to fall off the pace because of the flu, and ripped the heart out of the Sharks' defence with three second-half tries to secure the victory.
For the Sharks, there were great performances by Odwa Ndungane, Deysel, Sykes and Anton Bresler, while the Bulls stars included the nippy Clayton Blommetjies, captain Dewald Potgieter, hooker Willie Wepener and Jurgen Visser.
FULL OF RUNNING
The Sharks showed they were full of running from the start, and were unlucky when Odwa Ndungane didn’t latch on to a perfect grubber from Paul Jordaan in the corner that was won by the touchline.
Fouche had the first go at posts, but it was the Sharks that made the first telling blow when Riaan Viljoen pinpointed a perfect up-and-under, which was dropped by the Bulls and picked up perfectly to set Stephen Sykes rampaging forward, before offloading to captain Jean Deysel to score.
Fouche took the lead again with a penalty, and then landed a monster 55m drop to put the Bulls up 12-7.
While they were hopeful of a halftime lead, the Sharks launched one final attack, and were lucky to get away with what looked like an obstruction and forward pass in the move where Charl McLeod scored on the hooter.
Referee Jaco Peyper did check the forward pass, and it was denied, and pronounced himself happy with the obstruction call.
Fouche’s monster penalty put the Bulls back in the lead in the second half, before the Bulls moved into overdrive.
A beauty of a counter-attack went through the hands to get to Akona Ndungane, who drew the defence before landing a perfect pass inside to CJ Stander to run in for the first Bulls try.
The Sharks struck back almost immediately as Marius Joubert forced his way over, bringing his team within one point but the Bulls simply went up a notch to take the game away from the visitors.
Minutes later it was Ndungane again, this time catching a perfect high ball, before the ball was punched up the middle by Stander, who this time offloaded to Arno Botha to score.
And the final blow came again from another backline move, this time with Ulrich Beyers sending the ball wide to Ndungane, whose inside pass put away Francois Venter to score.
The Sharks scored a final try on the hooter by Odwa Ndungane to grab an important bonus point, but not enough for the win.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: CJ Stander, Arno Botha, Francois Venter. Conversions: Louis Fouche (3). Penalties: Fouche (6). Drop goal: Fouche.
Sharks – Tries: Jean Deysel, Charl McLeod, Marius Joubert, Odwa Ndungane. Conversions: Riaan Viljoen (4). Penalty: Viljoen.