Serfontein stars in Orlando win
IRB Junior Player of the year Jan Serfontein signaled his arrival as a senior as he starred in the Vodacom Bulls’ 38-32 pre-season win over the MTN Lions at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
While pre-season games are hardly ever remembered for the result, the Bulls youngsters would have taken a lot of confidence out of the result against the Lions, who to their credit never gave up and pushed the Bulls right to the end.
Yet, among the flurry of talent that stood out in Soweto, there was none more impressive than young Serfontein. Already a rising star at junior level, the biggest question was always whether or not he would be ready to take on Super Rugby at the tender age of 19.
If Orlando was anything to go by, the answer is a definitive yes, and there were signs that reminded one of a young Danie Gerber. A player who seemed to have so much time and space no matter how many defenders were in his face.
The Bulls have a quandary though, and how they will handle their squad system will ultimately determine how well they do not only this season, but also in the future.
What Orlando did show, however, was the promise of the combination between Serfontein and Lionel Mapoe, and later on the incredible talent of Handre Pollard, who made a telling impact with his first tackle of the match.
But there were others as well. Springbok Arno Botha, fullback Jurgen Visser and wing Sampie Mastriet showed their skills, while Grant Hattingh and Jean Cook also deserved mentions for valour.
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The Lions were more than competitive, and with captain JC Janse van Rensburg ruling the scrums, the duo of Derick Minnie and Jaco Kriel were busy in the loose, while Anthony Volminck and Andries Coetzee would be very at home at Super Rugby level.
Both sides showed an unbelievable amount of intent in the match, looking for opportunities at all times, but both also showed how much work they have to do in the future.
The Bulls raced away to a 19-3 lead, and should have been further ahead had Lionel Mapoe’s try been given. The TMO decision – which was three moves back, one more than the prescribed two – was called a forward pass, and no try given.
Other than the semantics of the decision though, the new TMO protocols have the danger of seeing referees refer every try for a decision on passing. This game was no exception and a clear warning on where this could end up.
After Serfontein’s opening try, Jurgen Visser scored the first of his brace and Hattingh added his name to the scoresheet to rack up the early lead.
The Lions weren’t about to be outdone, as Franco Mostert and Kriel both scored to pull the scoreline back to 22-17 at the break.
After a few early second-half penalties, the Lions stole the lead as Volminck sidestepped Tian Schoeman on his way to the tryline, but when Schoeman and Pollard kicked two penalties to restore the lead, the Bulls headed into the final moments ahead.
Visser scored to make it safe after another move started by Serfontein and although Kriel made the scoreline closer after the hooter, the Bulls had firmly deserved to win the match.