Excellent Bulls come out of losing streak
The Blue Bulls came out of their losing streak with an excellent 45-21 (half-time 24-9) victory over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in their Vodacom Cup match at Shimla Park on Friday night.
The defending champion Bulls showed that they weren't quite ready to exit Vodacom Cup contention with an extremely passionate, powerful performance.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls ran in seven tries - through Juandre Kruger, Clayton Blommetjies, Gerrit-Jan van Velze, Marnus Schoeman, Corne Fourie, Stefan Watermeyer and William Small-Smith, but the try-scorers will be the first to acknowledge their success was built on the fine work of their pack, who were quick to gain an ascendancy, especially in the scrums.
Marnitz Boshoff missed a third-minute penalty for the Bulls on what would be a difficult night with the boot for the flyhalf, who kicked just two conversions from six attempts at goal.
Lock and captain Kruger showed a good turn of pace to open the scoring in the 11th minute, but the Cheetahs enjoyed a very good next 10 minutes, although they only had a penalty and a drop goal from flyhalf Louis Strydom to show for it (7-6).
Bulls fullback Blommetjies extended the lead to 12-6 with a 24th-minute try, Strydom responding with another penalty just three minutes later (12-9).
But the last 10 minutes of the first half would be the crucial period as the Bulls claimed control with two tries, by eighthman Van Velze and flank Schoeman, Boshoff adding one conversion for the visitors to lead 24-9 at the break.
The Cheetahs dug their own grave to an extent with poor defending and a lack of discipline at the ruck, lock JC Astle being yellow-carded six minutes into the second half. The Bulls took less than a minute to take advantage of the absence of one of the tight forwards as prop Fourie forced his way over, centre Stefan Watermeyer converting to put them 31-9 up.
Watermeyer was a mine of skilful running and passing in midfield and it was fitting that he grabbed the next try, in the 52nd minute, which he converted himself (38-9).
The Cheetahs then brought on their reserves and they actually made a difference as they closed the gap to 38-21.
Replacement wing Robert van Schalkwyk added some dazzle for the home supporters as he streaked over in the corner, while another bench-man, Marcel van der Merwe, both hardened up the scrum and had time to score a try.
But ex-Grey College star Small-Smith put an end to the Free Staters' fun with a typical winger's try in the 78th-minute, which Watermeyer converted.
The Bulls put four straight defeats behind them by sticking to their strengths, with scrumhalf Ruan Snyman proving an excellent link-man between their driving forwards and backs. Van Velze was an extremely effective ball-carrier, while Watermeyer was exemplary in midfield.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs - Try: Robert van Schalkwyk, Marcel van der Merwe. Conversion: Morgan Newman. Penalties: Louis Strydom (2). Drop goal: Strydom.
Vodacom Blue Bulls - Tries: Juandre Kruger, Clayton Blommetjies, Gerrit-Jan van Velze, Marnus Schoeman, Corne Fourie, Stefan Watermeyer, William Small-Smith. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2), Watermeyer (3).