Bulls show their muscle
The Blue Bulls booked their Currie Cup semifinal place in emphatic style as they outplayed and outmuscled Griquas to win a tough Kimberley encounter 48-36 in soaring heat.
The Bulls did what was necessary and although the scoreline indicates that it was a close match, the contest was over as early as the 50th minute before Griquas scored a few late tries to bow out with their heads held high.
Many teams have fallen in Kimberley, but this Bulls side was never going to be one of them, with too much class and experience to be caught out by a game Griquas side who have competed well this year in the Currie Cup.
However the biggest cheer of the afternoon went to Springbok winger Bjorn Basson, who added two more tries to his scoring spree this season, surpassing the joint record held by Colin Lloyd and the great Carel du Plessis for the most tries in a Currie Cup season.
Basson found precious little space the entire afternoon, but the two chances he got were more than enough to show why he is the most in-form finisher in the competition at the moment.
The Bulls, while smarting at letting the points in, would also be sporting a wry smile, as Basson joins them next month as their big-name acquisition for the Super 15 next season.
Still, this was an afternoon where the Bulls needed to win to give themselves the confidence ahead of the semis, and given the ease with which they cruised through the first hour, there will be few opposition sides that will be hoping they face the Bulls in the last two weeks of the competition.
Griquas put up a hell of a fight in the end and were rewarded early when Barry Geel opened the scoring after the Bulls defence was stretched early on.
But the visitors struck back almost immediately as first Wynand Olivier took a crash ball up to a few centimetres from the line, with Dewald Potgieter diving over to score.
Olivier himself got on the scoreboard a few minutes later, running a perfect line after Francois Hougaard burrowed his way through the forwards to create the perfect momentum, and Morne Steyn put the perfect pass into space for the blond midfielder to strike.
The Bulls scrum was caught off guard by a Griquas wheel, with the turnover ball leading to Jean Stemmet’s try and the home side showing they can give as much as they can take.
Yet you still got the sense the Bulls, who were winning the collisions and were both more physical and stronger runners, were always going to come out on top in this contest.
LUCK ON THEIR SIDE
They also had some luck on their side, as Gerhard van den Heever showed with his chip and chase down the right wing, the ball bouncing cruelly for Basson, who had beat him in the chase, and popping back to Van den Heever for the try.
Steyn took the lead to 10 points with a penalty before Griquas replied with a monster kick of their own – fullback Riaan Viljoen striking a 60-metre kick perfectly into the wind to keep the difference to one try.
The second half was where the Bulls showed their class, coming out and ripping the game away from the home side with two quick tries.
First Jaco Pretorius fought his way over after Bakkies Botha was denied seconds earlier before Olivier cut inside perfectly to offload to Pretorius a few minutes later, with the outside centre this time sending Derick Kuün over to score.
The next moment,however, belonged to Basson, who cut inside with perfect pace to run in for the record-breaking try, before being swamped by his teammates who were almost more overjoyed than he was.
Any thoughts of a massive comeback were doused when Steph Roberts was yellow carded for the repeated offence of not using his arms in the tackle.
The Bulls struck immediately, with Hougaard feeding a flying Jaco van der Westhuyzen who went inside out Viljoen on his way to the line.
Matfield added another shortly afterwards before Basson grabbed his second and Pretorius a consolation try for the home side.
The Bulls won't be worried by their final moments, especially as many of their senior players were already resting up on the sidelines.
While it wasn’t perfect, it was enough to make the other teams in the playoffs realise they will have to bring their A game to beat the defending champs this year.
Griquas – tries: Bjorn Basson (2), Sarel Potgieter, Jean Stemmet, Barry Geel. Conversions: Naas Olivier (2), Rudi Vogt (2). Penalty: Riaan Viljoen.
Blue Bulls – tries: Dewald Potgieter, Wynand Olivier, Jaco Pretorius, Gerhard van den Heever, Derick Kuün, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Victor Matfield. Conversions: Morne Steyn (4), Jacques-Louis Potgieter (1).
Penalties: Steyn (1).