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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Kings stun Bulls at Loftus

Southern Kings flyhalf Lionel Cronje kicked a last minute penalty and contributed 21 points in an exceptional performance as his team shocked the Vodacom Bulls 31-30 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Cronje scored a try, and kicked four penalties, two conversions and a drop goal as he guided his team home with a general’s precision using his tactical nuance to keep the Bulls at bay after a second half onslaught.

The much-travelled flyhalf, who spent two seasons at the Bulls but was deemed surplus to requirements, made his former team regret their decision with a tactical performance that was one of the best this season.

But around him he was supported by a team that played with heart and despite being the discards of Super Rugby, they showed that heart will always beat the rand, and that a team of discards properly motivated can achieve anything.

And while there is uncertainty about where the team will end up after the decision to exclude them from Super Rugby next season, one thing is certain, the Kings have not only captured hearts and minds with their enterprising play, but certainly deserve to be a firm part of South Africa’s rugby future.

Deon Davids has proved that with scraps he can make a team into something exceptional and certainly deserves to be noticed by those who make the appointments at higher levels.

And while some may see this as a bit of a shock, and further compounds the problems at Loftus Versfeld, there can be nothing but praise for the way the Kings have gone about their season this year, and in this game in particular.

In essence they represent everything that is positive about South African rugby, showing that without almost everything the Bulls have in their favour – they matched them on every level and are set to end the season off on a high, even though they have little idea about where their futures lie.

Yet, despite the drama at the end, the game produced some magnificent tries, with the first half posing some massive questions for the Bulls defence, which certainly looked as if they were simply going through the motions at times.

The Kings surged to a 22-3 lead late in the first half, but then had to content with a second half comeback that almost saw the Bulls sneak home in the end, as the home team rallied 20 points in the second stanza, but it wasn’t enough.

The teams were deadlocked 3-all early before Makazole Mapimpi – probably the find of the South African season – got the ball on the outside and burned Travis Ismaiel on defence before heading in at the corner to score.

The Bulls thought they had struck back but Ismaiel’s try – which was the first opportunity in an otherwise massive game for his comeback from injury – was disallowed when replays showed Jason Jenkins had taken out Cronje high in a previous movement.

Jenkins saw yellow for the incedent but it didn’t stop the Kings from heading further up, this time attacking the line before Cronje saw a gap next to the ruck under the posts and waltzed in untouched.

Wandile Mjekevu followed Jenkins’ example as he received his marching orders in the 28th minute for a high shot on Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman.

But it didn’t stop the irrepressible Kings, as Cronje kept them moving forward, and then took them further ahead with a pinpoint kick pass to Chris Cloete, with the impressive flanker, passing to a flying Malcolm Jaer to burn the Bulls defence again and take the score to 22-3 up, leaving the Bulls stunned.

The Bulls managed to score an important try just before the break as Jenkins went over after Ismiael burst out of two tackles and passed to a flying Adriaan Strauss, who in turn sent Jenkins over.

The second half needed a big Bulls performance and they started off with a magnificent try by Duncan Matthews, who received the ball on the blindside wing, darted inside and out and left Jaer doing a 360 turn as he was flummoxed by the winger’s pace as he ran to the corner to score.

Schoeman brought the Bulls within two with a penalty before an onslaught saw Giant Mtyanda get a yellow for repeated infringements and set his side on the back foot. Schoeman took the lead for the Bulls with the ensuing penalty, giving them the lead in the 65th minute for the first time.

But Cronje hit back immediately a minute later with a perfect drop goal and added a penalty two minutes later to take the Kings five points up.

Either way, it was clear the game would come down to the wire, and the Bulls pressed hard, and were rewarded when replacement hooker Jaco Visagie came round the corner at the ruck, hit the tackle and rolled out of it to score a crucial try.

Schoeman’s conversion put the Bulls up by two with minutes to go.

But from the kickoff, Jannes Kirsten was adjudged to have touched the ball as it rolled over the dead ball line. Replays show that Kirsten may well have been justified in claiming he didn’t touch the ball but the decision meant a King’s scrum five metres out.

And the Bulls scrum crumbled as the Kings, smelling blood, took their chance and won the penalty.

And Cronje, who had been denied game time so often at Loftus, decided on the kick, and made no mistake as he claimed a famous victory for his side.

Vodacom Bulls – tries: Jason Jenkins, Duncan Matthews, Jaco Visagie. Conversions - Tian Schoeman (3). Penalties: Schoeman (2)

Southern Kings - tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Lionel Cronje, Malcolm Jaer. Conversions: Lionel Cronje (2), Penalties: Cronje (3). Drop goal: Cronje.


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