Boks' injury concerns overshadow Bulls' win
MATCH REPORT: The Bulls bounced back with a hard-fought 31-27 win over the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
The result means the Bulls cement their spot at the top.
While the Stormers remain second pending Saturday’s result between the Sharks and Lions.
*As it happened: Bulls v Stormers
The fixture was certainly entertaining with the lead exchanging hands on several occasions.
However, the big news is certainly that of Springboks duo Duane Vermeulen and Herschel Jantjies.
The Stormers scrumhalf left the field just after 22 minutes, while the Bulls captain Vermeulen hobbled off the field with what looked like an ankle injury.
Defensively superb, the Stormers made the most of the few opportunities they had and left Pretoria with four tries – including a brilliant brace by Edwill van der Merwe (wing) – while the Bulls were left wondering how they almost lost this match.
But “almost lost” is always better than “almost won”, and while the Bulls will be happy with the full house of log points, they will probably not jump for joy at the video session on Monday.
The men from Pretoria had the most possession and territorial advantage, and while they clearly wanted to score tries, mistakes and wrong options almost cost them dearly in the end.
However, they made their last chance count when Ruan Nortje barged over after numerous phases in the Stormers’ 22 and the clock in the red.
Full credit to the Capetonians for weathering a massive blue storm, putting in tackle after tackle after tackle as the Bulls opted for tries rather than penalty goals.
The home team’s tactics didn’t pay off most of the time, even though the Stormers had two players in the bin at the same time, Damian Willemse (fullback) and Rikus Pretorius (centre) for deliberate knockdowns.
The Bulls did score a try, a great move from the back of a lineout from Springbok loose forward Marcell Coetzee on debut, but the Stormers defended like Trojans for most of the first half and kept the blue waves at bay, with Steven Kitshoff (prop), Pieter-Steph du Toit (flank) and Evan Roos (No 8) leading the charge.
When Elrigh Louw (flank) finally went over for the Bulls, the try was disallowed after a successful captain’s referral from Kitshoff.
To compound matters for the Bulls, their influential captain, Springbok No.8 Duane Vermeulen, hobbled off late in the first half.
On the contrary, the visitors had two opportunities and converted both, with Van der Merwe prominent.
First, the Stormers speedster hacked ahead a loose ball before Damian Willemse (fullback) pounced to saunter over from a turnover on the Bulls’ tryline.
Then Van der Merwe made a great break and rounded off in the left corner after the ball had been spread to the right and back left.
With Tim Swiel (flyhalf) adding two conversions and penalty goal, the Stormers took a deserved if someone fortuitous 17-7 lead at the break.
The Bulls started the second half much better and took the lead after two converted maul tries by Johan Grobbelaar (hooker), but it was short-lived when Swiel went over from a bad kick chase by the home team.
The home team had two more tries disallowed – one from the TMO and one from another successful captain’s challenge by the Stormers, but they were clearly shifting gears.
Morne Steyn (flyhalf) finally got a three-pointer to put the Bulls back in the lead, but the Stormers refused to give up with Van der Merwe’s second try with 10 minutes left.
The Bulls held their nerves though and when they were handed an opportunity with second left on the clock, Nortje made sure they celebrated.
Man of the match: Damian Willemse, Edwill van der Merwe and Tim Swiel deserve to be mention. For the Bulls Marcell Coetzee produced an impressive performance since returning from Europe. However, our nod goes to Stormers No.8 Evan Roos. The 21-year-old was a standout and put in a solid defensive display.
Tries: Coetzee, Grobbelaar 2, Nortje
Cons: Steyn 3
Tries: Willemse, Van der Merwe 2, Swiel
Cons: Swiel 2
Yellow cards: Damian Willemse (Stormers, 12 – deliberate knockdown), Rikus Pretorius (Stormers, 15 – Deliberate knockdown)
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen, (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements – from: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Gio Aplon, 24 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 25 Muller Uys, 26 Jan Uys, 27 James Verity-Amm, 28 Keagan Johannes.
Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willie Engelbrecht, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 David Meihuizen, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain).
Replacements – from: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Dan du Plessis, 23 Sergeal Petersen, 24 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 25 Juarno Augustus.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen