Bulls win Loftus arm-wrestle
The Bulls opened their account with a credible 25-17 win over the Stormers in the opening derby of the South African Super Rugby season at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
It is a truism to say that the team that scores more points wins. The Stormers scored two tries to a freakish one and lost. The Bulls kicked seven of seven kicks at goal and missed none. They won because their opponents missed four of seven kicks. But that was not the only Bulls' kicking that was better. They won the kicking-out-of hand easily as well.
Both sides defended heroically, especially the Bulls in the latter stages of the game when they set about denying the Stormers a bonus point.
Sadly there were uncontested scrum late in the game as the Stormers lost two props, first Steven Kitshoff, then Pat Cilliers but that may have saved the Stormers' bacon as they had conceded nine points through penalties against their props at scrum time. The scrums were not the Stormers' only problem. Their line-outs were wonky as well. They lost five and threw in skew once. Once they forsook the chance to kick at goal and opted for a five-metre line-out instead, and then they threw the ball over the top to the Bulls. With the great height of Bekker to aim at, this is not great efficiency. And then their handling was poor, conceding 12 scrums to five. Their only victory was in the penalty count – 10-6 in their favour, which did not help them when they missed kicks at goal and failed to kick a penalty for touch into touch.
Without a doubt the team that deserved to win, did win.
There was a lot of blue on the field – the royal blue of the Stormers and the sky blue of the Bulls as Morné Steyn kicked off in front to 44 300 spectators. The Bulls started with 13 Springboks in their side to the Stormers' eight. It was a match of accomplished players but the match was not really special at all.
Andries Bekker knocked on the kick-off and the Bulls settled into dominance of possession and territory. Wynand Olivier, no longer blond, burst past Elton Jantjies and Bjorn Basson and Werner Kruger were close. Duane Vermeulen was penalised at the tackle and the metronomic boot of Steyn made it 3-0 after 5 minutes.
The Bulls were mixing their game – running expansively at times, and Steyn kicking them into control at others.
Kitshoff was penalised at a scrum. 6-0 after 27 minutes. The kick was from the Bulls' half. Cilliers was penalised at a scrum. 9-0 after 34 minutes. In that half Jantjies missed three penalty kicks at goal.
In that half, too, the Bulls lost two players to injury – prop Werner Kruger and flank Dewald Potgieter.
The Stormers started the second half with enthusiasm, going through the phases till they missed a fourth penalty attempt at goal. But when Kitshoff was again penalised at a scrum, Steyn goaled his fourth. 12-0 after 45 minutes.
The Stormers opted for a five-metre line-out from a penalty, mauled and, on advantage, went wide. Jean de Villiers burst at the line and then they went wide left where Francois Venter stopped Bryan Habana centimetres from the left corner. De Villiers picked up the ball and dabbed it over the goal-line for a try. Joe Pietersen, who had just come on for the unused Gio Aplon, converted. 12-7 after 50 minutes and suddenly Stormers' eyes sparkled and their heads jerked up. The leader of the new life in the visitors was Habana. Deon Stegmann was penalised at a tackle and Pietersen goaled. 12-10. Momentum was with the Stormers.
Sadly for the Stormers, it fizzled out. First Nic Groom and then De Villiers were penalised at tackles and the Bulls were leading 18-10 after 60 minutes.
At this stage the game descended into uncontested scrums.
The Bulls attacked and Francois Hougaard, grubbered towards the Stormers' line as Siya Kolisi and Frans Malherbe tried to stop him. Chiliboy Ralepelle was ahead of Hougaard when he kicked but he gathered the ball and grounded it next to the posts. The matter was referred to the TMO who found that a sliver of the toe of Malherbe's boot had touched the ball, thereby putting Ralepelle onside and so confirming the try. 25-10 after 67 minutes.
Time ticked away and the Stormers went through 20 phases till Bekker, positioned at outside centre, beat three defenders to score. 25-17 with three minutes to play.
Man of the Match: Morné Steyn. He scored the points with impeccable kicking. He kept the Bulls on top with clever, creative kicking from hand. He did more to win the match than anybody else.
For the Bulls:
Pens: Steyn 6
For the Stormers:
Tries: De Villiers, Bekker
Cons: Pietersen 2
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Francois Venter.
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gerhard van den Heever, 22 Joe Pietersen.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)