Jarman’s Pick of the Week
This week’s action saw all four SA teams in with a shout at reaching the super rugby play-offs. The only team that was assured a place in the play-offs was the Bulls and they played like a team confident of their position when they took on the Lions at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
The Lions determined to win with a bonus point to seal passage into the later stages of the tournament started fast, really fast, in fact they were on the board just 15 seconds into the game. Handre Pollard kicked off straight to Aphiwe Dyantyi, the Bulls missed the first tackle and Dyantyi showed a great step and sublime pace to get away from the defense and with one man to beat he found support in the form of 8th man Hacjivah Dayimani who opened the scoring 15 seconds in, Elton Jantjies made light work of the conversion , a perfect start for the visitors, 7-0 after a minute.
The drama was far from over however, the Bulls looked to hit back immediately as they strung together some good phases of play forcing a penalty right out in front but Scrumhalf Andre Warner was alive to the possibility of a quick tap and nearly scored himself before Handro Liebenberg scored with a pick up and go from just a meter from the line, stretching to find the bottom of the post to score for his team, Pollard leveled matters at 7 a piece after 4 minutes played.
After Elton Jantjies had grabbed the lead back for the Lions with a penalty, the Bulls struck once more with a try after a well worked lineout move they set up an unorthodox midfield rolling maul which paid dividends when they rumbled their way over the line with minimal fuss. Liebenberg again with ball in hand to score the try and once again Pollard added the extras to make it 14-10 and this game looked to be setting up as a humdinger after 11 minutes played.
Andries Coetzee would cut the deficit to a single point in the 14th minute when he kicked a drop goal for the visitors. With a penalty advantage for offside Coetzee dropped back into the pocket and struck the ball straight through the uprights, flawless execution from the Lions fullback, 14-13 to the bulls after 14 minutes
The Bulls were next on the scoreboard as they scored a try in the 16th minute as this game continued to thrill. The move started on the Lions 40 meter line when Handre Pollard flung a wide pass to Rosko Specman, the pacey former 7s BlitzBok showed all his skills first to accelerate away from would be tacklers and then a clean step to make space for himself. He was finally tackled inside the 22 of the Lions but stayed on his feet long enough to get a pass off to Warner who found a charging Marco Van Staden who took the ball up to the 5m line of the Lions and after Trevor Nyakane had a crack at the line, Lizo Gqoboka sported a gap on the fringe of the ruck and dived for the line scoring the bulls 3rd of the game , Pollard perfect with the boot again kicked the conversion which meant the score was now 21-13 after just 16 minutes.
The fast paced nature of the game continued as the bulls found the try line yet again just 3 minutes later after scrappy play from the Lions in the Bulls half, the Bulls forced a turnover and used it to devastating effect. They quickly got the ball into space with some good passing and once the ball got to Specman again he showed great awareness to step Burger Odendaal who had an easy run in thanks the the speed and skill of Specman, the Bulls running riot at Loftus and the Lions with little bite for their bark so far as the Bulls stretched their lead at 28-13 after 20 minutes. The game leveled out from then until the break with the Bulls only adding 3 points to their score from the boot of Pollard. The Lions managed 2 penalties of their own to cut into that Bulls lead but the score at half time was a resounding 31-19.
The Lions needed to start well in the second half of the game and that they did 15 minutes in when they had a lineout just 5m out from the Bulls tryline. From the lineout they set up a maul and with momentum on their side the result was inevitable as the crossed the line for the first score of the second half Cyle Brink coming up with the ball as the Lions cut into the Bulls lead once again after they had kicked a penalty earlier in the half, this meant the score was now 31-27 to the Bulls but the Lions showing why they made 2 super rugby finals in a row as they showed great character to come back in this game.
The Bulls however as usual had all the answers in this game and struck again in the 60th minute< a hammer blow to the chances of the Lions in this game. After a quick ball from RG Snyman while being tackled he found Pollard and Pollard showed excellent vision to find Cornal Hendricks with a big wide pass, the Bulls flyer had a lot of work to do to reach the line but reach it he did as he first accelerated away from one tackler and then stepped his way past Lionel Mapoe, Mapoe managed to get enough on him to bring him down albeit momentarily as Hendricks managed to stretch his way over the try line in the corner, Pollard unable to add the extra points meant the score was now 36-27.
The Bulls captain then stepped up to put the game to bed in the 65th minute with a try of his own. After great pressure from his forward pack on the line if the Lions, Pollard spotted a half gap in the defense and put his head down, crashing over the line for his try and the final nail in the Lions coffin, 7 points to Pollard and the Bulls took the score out to 43 -27 a surely unassailable lead as we moved in to the later stages of the game.
The Bulls however were not done yet and added another try to their tally in the 71st minute through brilliant play from Pollard once again as he took a half gap and while being tackled managed to offload the ball to Manie Libbok who score easily, 48-27 and that’s how it remained until the final whistle. The Bulls winning the Trans Jyske derby in comfortable fashion. The Bulls will now face the tough prospect of traveling to the Hurricanes next up but the Bulls have been more than competitive on the road so expect a great clash in Wellington on Saturday 22 June.
Stormers VS Sharks
The other SA derby of the weekend and the situation was a simple one, lose and go home. The Stormers being at home would be confident but in a do or die game the Sharks were dangerous. The first half had in the way of excitement for both sides as they went in at the break with the score at 5-3 to the Sharks. The Sharks scored a try through Ryno Smith while the Stormers had to rely on Josh Stander’s not to get their 3 points in the half.
Second half and this nervy sort of game continued as only 13 points were scored by both teams. The Stormers added 6 points from the boot of both Stander and replacement Flyhalf Jean-luc Du Plessis and that looked like enough as they headed into the last 5 minutes with the lead but then inexplicably kicked the ball away to the Sharks. The Sharks showed great determination going almost the length of the field to steal this one at the death with Lukanyo Am scoring the vital try at the end; Robert Du Preez added the unneeded extra point as the Sharks stunned the Newlands faithful to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Sharks will next face the Brumbies in Canberra. With mixed results for the Sharks away from home this season anything is possible in this one but having won when it seemed almost impossible at Newlands against the Stormers it would be foolish to rule out a victory for the Durban based Sharks outfit.