Leopards give Bulls mighty scare
The Platinum Leopards gave the defending Absa Currie Cup champions, the Vodacom Blue Bulls, an almighty scare at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night, coming within a whisker of the biggest upset of the Currie Cup season before finally going down 43-38 in an exciting and open game.
Twice in the last five minutes the Bulls defence held firm under the assault of the Leopards attack, and it was finally a telling tackle by Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Jaco Pretorius, who bundled winger Deon Scholtz over the sideline to ensure a nailbiting victory for the home side.
Despite having more than 65 per cent possession in the second half, the Blue Bulls lost the half 28-13 as their defence crumbled under the Leopard counter attacks and they were very lucky indeed to get out of the stadium with a victory on the night.
The home side may have a right to question why after seven penalties against the visitors on their own line, no cards were produced, but once they figured out that referee Stuart Berry wasn’t going to reach into his pocket, they should have adapted better than they did.
The Leopards managed to scrounge and disrupt the Bulls attack so much so that while it looked like the Bulls were on their way to the half-century mark, the Leopards simply used the scraps of ball they received much better and found gaping holes in the Bulls defence.
This doesn’t bode well for the Bulls as they will lose their Springboks to the Tri-Nations next week and then have to face log leaders Western Province in Cape Town.
But to deny the Leopards credit would be a disservice to a side that played bravely and showed glimpses of what they are capable of when they get on a roll. Midfielders Jovan Bowles and Walter Venter, No 8 Riaan Swanepoel, lock Ligtoring Landman and scrumhalf Michael Bondesio all had massive games and certainly showed that while they are bottom of the log, they aren’t a spent force just yet.
The Bulls were good on attack, with Jaco Pretorius showing a welcome return to form and his young midfield partner Stefan Watermeyer growing with every game. Watermeyer was probably the best Bull on show, although that will be challenged by the performances of captain Derick Kuün and Dewald Potgieter.
The Bulls were shocked early on when they conceded a 10-0 lead in the opening minutes as a big break by Swanepoel led to Landman crashing over, followed by a Niell Jacobs penalty.
It was a bleak start but the Bulls soon put it right by scoring two quick tries of their own. First left winger Hayden Groepes popped up on the wrong side of the field to give Gerhard van der Heever the first of his two tries. After being denied by a truck and trailer call, a second attempt at the lineout drive saw Francois Hougaard snipe through a tackle and pop the ball to Potgieter to give the Bulls the lead.
It was a lead they never relinquished, and should have settled the game early in the second half after already securing the bonus point before half-time.
The lineout drive worked well for the Bulls with captain Kuün peeling off to score the third try, before Van der Heever got his second with a trademark inside pass from a lineout move. The winger’s pace was way too much for the Leopards as the Bulls headed into the break 26-10 up.
They started the second half much like the first as from another drive, Stefan Watermeyer went straight through channel one before giving the ball to Hougaard to extend the lead.
Two minutes later the momentum started to shift, as Hougaard messed up a kick and the Leopards countered well, leaving halfback Michael Bondesio to find a gap around the fringe and run in for his first try.
Another lineout drive saw Watermeyer find a big gap and go through untouched to extend the lead to 40-17 but it was apparent the Bulls were finding it hard to capitalise on all the possession they had.
The Leopards scored from a counter from a bad kick, this time by Watermeyer, and Bondesio added his second before a break by flyhalf Neill Jacobs led to their bonus point try by Walter Venter.
Both sides sensed the shift in momentum, so much so that the Bulls decided on their first penalty shot at goal for the night at 40-31, with Jacques-Louis Potgieter extending the lead to a seemingly safe point with nine minutes left.
But a late try by Dumisani Matyeshana after some poor defending by the Bulls put the result in doubt and the Bulls were left to play to try and save the game.
Blue Bulls - tries: Gerhard van den Heever (2), Dewald Potgieter, Derick Kuün, Francois Hougaard, Stefan Watermeyer. Conversion: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (5). Penalties: Potgieter
Platinum Leopards – tries: Ligtoring Landman, Michael Bondesio (2), Walter Venter, Dumisani Mateshana. Conversions: Niell Jacobs (4), Clayton Durand (1). Penalties: Jacobs (1)