Bulls burst Sharks' bubble
Bulls burst Sharks' bubbleSHARE
The Bulls ended the table-topping Sharks' unbeaten run with a 23-19 upset at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
It was not only the Sharks' first defeat, it was also their first game away from Durban.
Add in the injuries of scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and Patrick Lambie and it was not a day to remember.
The essence of rugby football, we were told, was taking up the ball in your arms and running with it. If you had watched this match, especially the first half, you would not have believed that. It was definitely a kicking game, and the kicking was almost entirely unprofitable.
It was just something to do. There was a tighthead which was kicked and a turnover at a tackle that was kicked. It seemed that the first thought was always to kick. Nearly 35 000 people paid to watch it.
Perhaps they were simple folk who understood the score and so went home, in the majority, satisfied or, for those in black shirts, disgruntled. The satisfaction would have come from victory and the disgruntlement from defeat. But there was little about the quality of the rugby that could have produced satisfaction.
The only lightness and brightness came – mirabile narratu – from the Bulls. Twice they threw in quickly instead of having line-outs and twice the tapped penalties and ran them, the first time deep in their own territory. Once they almost scored from such an uncharacteristic activity and it took Ryan Kankowski to save as Bjorn Basson ran at him.
There were some bright moments – a long run by Cobus Reinach that led to Willem Alberts's try, Jacques du Plessis's burst that ended with him scoring, Basson's arcing run that ended four metres from the goal-line and set up JJ Engelbrecht's try, and Basson's booting ahead forcing a brave save by Frans Steyn.
That was pretty well it and it did not make up 80 minutes. Most of the time was taken with kicks – place kicks, drop-kicks, grubber kicks and just kicks. The only player who looked willing to counterattack was the Sharks' fullback, SP Marais, an enterprising player who fought the temptation to be enterprising.
Oh, and there were also some sterile phases of one pass a phase.
The Sharks had two early setbacks. They lost both halfbacks inside the first quarter of an hour. Pat Lambie went off inside five minutes with what may have been an injury to his left elbow. His place was taken by Tim Swiel, a young migrant from Western Province who played Under-21 rugby last year. Then Jaco Reinach went, replaced by seasoned Charl McLeod.
The Sharks scored first when suddenly Reinach went on a long run down the right. He got a pass to Sibusiso Sithole who was pulled down near the line. As he was tackled by Deon Stegmann, Kankowski dive-passed to burly Alberts and there was no stopping him so close to the line. Swiel converted – 7-0 after eight minutes.
The lead was gradually eroded – first when Sithole infringed a tackle and then when Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicked a 40-metre dropped goal that soared over almost as high as the tall uprights – 7-6 after 21 minutes.
But two long-range penalties – the first from a metre inside his own half – by Frans Steyn extended the lead to 13-6 at the break.
From a free kick at a scrum, the Bulls tapped and ran with three one-pass phases till Francois Hougaard gave to massive Du Plessis who burst through Tendai Mtawarira and then Bismarck du Plessis before running 24 metres to score near the posts – 13-13 after 47 minutes.
From a line-out Basson went on his speedy run. McLeod brought him down four metres from the Sharks' line. The Bulls went left and Jacques-Louis Potgieter floated a long, 20-metre pass to his left. It bounced and sat up for JJ Engelbrecht who had an unimpeded stroll to the line. The Bulls now led 20-13 after 53 minutes.
The rest of the match had an excitement generated by the score as the Sharks tried to win.
Steyn kicked a penalty – 20-16 after 67 minutes. Steyn kicked another penalty – 20-19 after 70 minutes. Steyn missed a drop which would have given the Sharks the lead. Tries did not seem a part of the gameplan.
With three minutes to go Handré Pollard, on for Jacques-Louis Potgieter, goaled a simple penalty and the game ended when Marcel van der Merwe ripped the ball out of the grasp of Lourens Adriaanse.
This was the first away match the Sharks have played this Super Rugby season and their first defeat.
It was also JP Pietersen's 100th Super Rugby Match – the wing who was a lock at school.
Man of the Match: Kicking dominated the match and so we have a choice between Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Francois Steyn but for us the most aesthetically perfect aspect of the match was Victor Matfield's performance in the line-outs and he is as a result our Man of the Match.
For the Bulls:
Tries: Du Plessis, Engelbrecht
Cons: Potgieter 2
Pens: Potgieter, Pollard
For the Sharks:
Pens: Steyn 4
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Andre Esterhuizen.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)