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Rugby | Absa Currie Cup

Injuries put damper on Bulls win



The Vodacom Blue Bulls grabbed five valuable Absa Currie Cup points in Potchefstroom on Saturday, but struggled to beat a game Leopards side 39-26.

The Bulls coaches will tell you that the five points are all that will matter, but a long injury list for a game played on a field that looked like it was a beach pitch more than a grass surface and a heavy penalty count against them will be on their minds as they head back to Pretoria.

The Bulls did do the job they came to Potchefstroom to do, but the old wives tale that smaller unions usually incur the wrath of the referee was totally blown out of the water by visiting Australian ref Nathan Pearce, who frustrated the Bulls by only being consistent in the way he penalised them throughout.

You have to wonder if there wasn’t concern at SA Rugby at the state of the Olën Park pitch, which was just sand in some areas, while most of the pitch looked like a piece of yellow veld that had been sheared for the occasion, hardly what Currie Cup teams are used to these days.

The Bulls paid heavily as they lost Juandré Kruger (hand injury) in the first five minutes, then saw captain Gary Botha (ankle), winger Jaco van der Westhuyzen (knee), prop Werner Kruger (knee) and Fudge Mabeta (neck) sitting on the sidelines before tactical substitutions were even on the cards.

OPEN AND INSPIRING GAME

Still, while the pitch was a concern, it didn’t take away from both teams’ willingness to play an open and inspiring game.

On countless occasions both teams shunned kicks at goal to go for the sidelines and it was the Leopards who struck early as Walter Venter scythed through the Bulls defence to put Dumisani Matyeshane over for the first try.

Clayton Durand added the conversion and a penalty shortly afterwards to give his side an early 10-0 lead but it wasn’t long before the Bulls struck back through a Derick Kuün try after Gerrit Janse van Velzen barged his way upfield.

The Leopards had hardly caught their breath when the Bulls lineout drive rumbled upfield, and when it finally was stopped, the ball was given quick hands to the wing for Jaco van der Westhuyzen to level the scores.

Durand put his side in the lead for the last time on the half hour, but an error shortly afterwards gave the Bulls the advantage they needed to take control of the game.

Replacement winger Deon Scholtz failed to control a grubber and knocked on into the hands of the oncoming Bulls players, who sent it wide for Jaco Pretorius to run in untouched.

On the stroke of half time, the Bulls struck again, turning down a penalty to rather go for the line and they were rewarded as they first sucked in the defence, then sent the ball wide for replacement winger Hayden Groepes to score in the opposite corner.

The Bulls started the second half in fine style as the Leopards’ lineouts started to crumble, with Van Velze stealing a good ball in the air on the half-way line which fell perfectly in Francois Hougaard’s arms. In a moment, the Bok halfback was through the gap and opened up the throttle to outrun the defence and score a great try.

At 31-13 the Bulls looked in control of the game but the penalties started to take their toll against them as the Leopards grew bolder on attack.

Two more penalties by Durand brought them within 12 points of the Bulls before Jacques-Louis Potgieter extended the lead with a penalty of his own back to 15 points.

A wonderful counter attack paid dividends for them two minutes from time as Jovan Bowles and Matyeshane combined perfectly to put Cecil Dumond over in the corner and give them some hope.

But from the final kickoff, the Leopards lost the ball forward, and Stefan Watermeyer wrestled his way over the line to make the scoreline look more respectable for the victors.

Scorers

Blue Bulls – tries: Derick Kuün, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Jaco Pretorius, Hayden Groepes, Francois Hougaard, Stefan Watermeyer. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3). Penalties: Potgieter (1)

Leopards – tries: Dumisane Matyeshane, Cecil Dumond. Conversions: Clayton Durand (2). Penalties: Durand (4)

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