Battle of Bloem: The real cost of a bruising affair
REACTION: The Cheetahs may have claimed the points, but – like the Bulls – may have paid a dear price.
The Cheetahs edged the Bulls 19-17 in a thrilling Super Rugby Unlocked Round Two encounter in Bloemfontein on Friday.
It was two former Bulls players – Tian Schoeman and Rosko Specman – who scored all the points for the hosts. Flyhalf Schoeman kicked four penalties from five attempts and converted a brilliantly executed first half try from wing Specman.
It was the second successive home victory for the Cheetahs and lifted them five points clear at the top of the standings in the seven-team competition.
However, coach Hawies Fourie was contemplating being without his captain for the rest of the season.
Veteran Springbok Ruan Pienaar left the field on a mobile stretcher after 15 minutes with a serious-looking knee injury.
Bulls coach Jake White has a similar problem, with seasoned Springbok Gio Aplon leaving the field with a knee injury after just five minutes.
Aplon, 38, also appears to have played his last game this year.
(Continue below …)
“Injuries are part of the game,” the Cheetahs coach, Fourie, told a post-match media briefing.
“It was really sad to see him [Pienaar] and Gio Aplon depart the field so early in the game.””
He said that it was a “big setback to lose the 36-year-old Pienaar and he was “hopeful” that it was not serious.
“The team reacted well [to his departure] and remained calm,” Fourie said.
“Tian Meyer did a great job [as replacement] for 65 minutes.
“Junior [Pokomela] stood in as captain and made great decisions,” the coach said, adding that Pokomela will now be captain for the rest of the season.
(Continue below …)
White said there is no confirmation, but Aplon feared he may have damaged his ACL.
“He has never done it [injured his ACL] before, so he is not sure,”the Bulls coach said.
“He was running and as he stepped, the outside of his knee went. Hopefully it is not serious.”
Pokomela said he “appreciated” the support from his teammates on the field.
“Now we must study the Lions, when they play the Stormers tomorrow [Saturday], before facing them next weekend in Johannesburg.”
Bulls skipper and No.8 Duane Vermeulen said: “We showed great character to fight back, initially with 14 men, and at least we had the consolation of a bonus point.”