Lions captain hands victory to Bulls
MATCH REPORT: Lions captain Burger Odendaal literally gifted the Bulls a try – and the win – in their Currie Cup Round 11 encounter at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
With just two minutes left on the clock and the Bulls leading by one point, Odendaal passed the ball to Bulls replacement Richard Kriel inside the Lions’ in-goal area – allowing him to score the try that sealed a 43-37 win for the home team.
The result sees the Bulls return to the top of the table – after losing first place to the Cheetahs for a few hours – and also seal a home semifinal for the team from Pretoria.
A distraught Odendaal admitted after the game that it was his error that cost his team their first Currie Cup win of the season – which now leaves them with an unprecedented 10 consecutive defeats in South Africa’s premier domestic competition.
* To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
The Bulls settled down the quicker of the two teams, with the Lions’ discipline – or rather lack of it – letting them down.
They were reduced to 14 men twice in the first half, as the referee lost patience with their repeated offences.
It allowed the home team to not just win territory, but also get into a rhythm – seeing them race into a 35-17 lead at half-time.
The Lions eventually got their forward-based game going and piled on some pressure on the Bulls in the set pieces.
In the final minutes of the opening half, the Bulls were also reduced to 14 men for repeated infringements and they lost their second player to a yellow card early in the second half – also for repeated infringements, as the Bulls conceded 10 consecutive penalties.
It allowed the Lions to work their way back into the game, closing the gap down to just one point – before Odendaal’s moment of madness.
A dramatic second half produced some exciting attacking rugby, lots of powerful scrums – especially from the visiting side – and brave defence from the home team.
The result leaves the Bulls in the first spot on the table with 42 points from 10 games, followed by the Cheetahs on 41 points from their nine-game unbeaten run.
Gert Smal’s team raced into a 21-7 lead after just 20 minutes thanks to three well-executed tries.
Skipper Lizo Gqoboka was the first one over the line when he was on hand to receive a tap-and-go pass from five meters out.
The Johannesburg-based outfit showed great tenacity to hit back with a try of their own through Ruben Schoeman (lock), and when Jordan Hendrikse (flyhalf) added the extras, the scores were once more even at 7-all.
Then followed a great passage of play for the Bulls, as they dominated territory and possession to score two more impressive, converted tries.
Experienced Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis crashed over next to the upright after some powerful pick-and-goes, while he was followed over the whitewash by left wing David Kriel when he finished a clever line-out set-piece move.
In between, Lions pivot Hendrikse slotted a penalty goal, but the home side kept on with trying to up the tempo. This tactic led to their fourth try, by No.5 lock Janko Swanepoel, who went over as the Sigma Lions struggled to match the intensity.
And when the home backs showed some lovely hands in limited space to create try number five, scored by outside centre Stedman Gans. This passage of play stretched their advantage to 35-10.
With two minutes of play allowed after the half-time hooter had sounded already, the Johannesburg-based team produced a powerful scrum to set-up a converted try for stalwart midfielder Odendaal, which brought the halftime score to 35-17.
The second half was more of a cagey affair initially, with the Lions using their powerful scrum to good effect.
To their credit though, they refused to give up and it was only a matter of time for their dominating scrum to deliver points, which it did when No 8 Francke Horn had the simple task of dotting down.
That signalled a huge swing in momentum for the visiting side, and they scored two more tries, first through Hendrikse and then No.6 flank Sangweni Sibusiso.
When Hendrikse raised the flags with his mid-ranged penalty kick, the visiting team was now trailing by just one point at 37-38 and less than five minutes to go.
Then followed that strange play, when Odendaal passed to Kriel behind the Lions goal-line for a try which sealed the win and top spot for the Bulls.
For the Bulls
Tries: Gqoboka, Du Plessis, D Kriel, Swanepoel, Gans, R Kriel
Cons: Mostert 4, Johannes
For the Lions
Tries: Schoeman, Odendaal, Horn, Hendrikse, Sangweni
Cons: Hendriks 3
Pens: Hendriks 2
Yellow card: Burger Odendaal (Lions, 20 – repeated infringements, cynically killing the ball on the ground), Stean Pienaar (Lions, 33 – foul play, colliding with a jumper in the air), Reinhardt Ludwig (Bulls, 39 – repeated infringements, offside), Bismarck du Plessis (Bulls, 52 – repeated infringements, killing the ball at the tackle)
Bulls: 15 James Verity-Am, 14 David Kriel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Marco Janse van Vuren, 11 Kabelo Mokoena, 10 Juan Mostert, 9 Keagan Johannes, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Reinhardt Ludwig, 6 Jaco Labuschagne, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Raynard Roets, 3 Dylan Smith, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Lizo Gqoboka (captain).
Replacements: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Cebo Dlamini, 18 Francois Kloppers, 19 Ruan Delport, 20 Stephan Smith, 21 Bernard van der Linde, 22 Diego Appollis, 23 Richard Kriel.
Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Sibusiso Sangweni, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Botha, 17 Heiko Pohlmann, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Cal Smid, 20 Jarod Cairns, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Henko van Wyk, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.
Referee: Griffin Colby
Assistant referees: Morne Ferreira, Local appointment
TMO: Christie du Preez