Two teams that have had glorious days in Super Rugby face off to determine who can get their campaign back on track. Sadly the days of Super Rugby titles are long gone for both teams and they are hoping to start rebuilding…
It was however a soaking wet Loftus and it was just a case of who was going to rain on the other’s parade. There were however a decent number of Bulls supporters in for the game. The Bulls have had a bad start to the season and the Blues have been inconsistent. Again. It was literally anyone’s game.
After a dull first few minutes in the middle of the field, it was the Bulls who first went on the offensive after some aggressive defense. The wet ball however got the better of their first attacking play and the weather was bound to be a problem throughout the game.
The first points came from the boot of the kicking-metronome, Morne Steyn. On a wet day like this, the mostly conservative kicking game of Steyn could definitely be a huge bonus.
The yellow card that Andries Ferreira received compounded a bad penalty decision just second earlier against the Bulls. The critical 10 minutes that would follow, would go a long way to show the Bulls character and the potential to win against their more favored NZ opponents.
A second shocking yellow card followed on Odendaal after a tremendous tackle. Narawa dipped into it… Odendaal got penalized for it. Player safety is important, but defenders should not be penalized if they didn’t show the intent to cause harm.
Despite being down to 13 men, the Bulls stubbornly repelled the Blues. They kept them out despite the unjust yellow cards. Just after getting back to 14 men, the wall finally broke as the Blues got in for a very hard-fought try.
After defending many waves of attacks by the Blues, the Bulls went into half time the deserved leaders. They played more rugby during the first half and were full value for their 11-8 lead. Not flawless, but a huge step up from the previous weeks.
Shortly after stretching the lead to 14-8, the Bulls almost let in a soft-try after some shocking midfield defense, but the replay showed a forward pass by the Blues.
The wet weather kept both teams from playing a more flowing brand of rugby and there were frequent stoppages from handling mistakes. At times the game got quite frustrating in the 2nd half as both teams struggled to put multiple phases together.
Although a lot of the game was played between the two 22’s, it was the Blues who were able to conjure up two tries taking the score to 14-20 with 20 minutes to play. It was going to be a battle till the end!
Manie Libbok also stepped onto the field with the electric Papier on his inside. Their impact was quickly felt as they brought some unpredictability to the Bulls attack. His kick to the corner that went dead was however not overly encouraging. These types of errors were partly to blame for him not getting a more extended run in the starting lineup.
The Bulls went up 21-20 with just over 7 minutes to play after totally dominating the Blues at scrum time. We were in for a VERY tense last few minutes!
An aggressive start on defense showed that the Bulls were keen to get their campaign back on track. Hopefully, it would last 80 minutes…
It looked like the Bulls were in a bullying mood. The sight of people getting punished at the contact area took you back to the days of Bakkies Botha. It was good to see the intensity of the Bulls back to where it should be.
The 13 man Bulls defense was however a great indicator of the mindset of the men from Pretoria. It looked like they had turned a page and there was a new fire driving them.
Pote Human and his team definitely put in some amazing work in the 2 weeks leading up to this game. It was not the same side from the start of the tournament.
The quality of Morne Steyn can’t be questioned, but it is difficult to look past the excitement that Libbok brings to the game. Coming onto the park with 20 minutes left to play, things were bound to get interesting.
Although the Bulls weren’t their old dominant selves in the lineouts, they absolutely crushed the Blues at scrum time
The Blues were finding the going tough at the start and the hard tackling and rucking from the Bulls didn’t make life easy in the wet conditions.
Even with the Bulls down to 13 players, the Blues found the going hard. They struggled to get over the advantage line and allowed the Bulls to bully them in the contact.
The Blues looked shell shocked during most of the first half. This despite putting the first 5 pointer on the board. Their inability to capitalize on the numerical advantage bode well for the Bulls.
The 2 tries in the first 20 minutes of the 2nd half could not be seen as a vintage performance, but they were able to get over the line somehow. This put them in a position where they had everything to lose.
Bulls: Jaco Visagie (2), Andries Ferreira (4), Juandre Kruger (5), Josh Strauss (8), Ivan van Zyl (9), Morne Steyn (10), Rosco Specman (11), Burger Odendaal (12), Cornal Hendricks (14)
Blues: Patrick Tuipulotu (4), Tom Robinson (6), Otere Black (10), Emoni Narawa (14)
ThysRugby player of the game: Josh Strauss – exceptional work rate in all aspects of the game
Top plays of the game
- Burger Odendaal’s hit on Narawa after a box kick from van Zyl. It lifted the whole of the Bulls team!
- The 13 man Bulls defense. What an effort. Outnumbered, everyone kept putting everything on the line
- Ivan van Zyl’s defending of his opposite number at the scrum. Resulting in a penalty shortly after as the Blues couldn’t soak up the pressure
- Masterful scrumming by the Bulls on attack putting the Blues under immense pressure resulting in a well-deserved try
Bulls: A much-improved performance by the Bulls that help them to get their campaign off the ground. No New Zealand is easy to play against and they performed well in horrible conditions in many areas on the field.
Blues: The Blues blew hot and cold the whole time. They did score a number of tries, but weren’t very convincing. The result flattered them.