Bulls brilliant, Sharks shaky

The Bulls jumped to the top of the SA Conference with a bonus-point victory over the Kings, while the Sharks provided more evidence of a few serious cracks.

The Bulls fourth try was scored in injury time, but it was enough for the Bulls to return to Pretoria with five points which saw them go to 28 log points halfway through the league phase of the competition. They won 34-0.

It was only the fourth time ever a South African franchise failed to score a point in Super Rugby. It’s happened to the Bulls twice before – in 1999 they were beaten 29-0 by the Sharks in Durban and in 2011 they lost 27-0 to the Crusaders in Timaru. The Stormers lost 22-0 to the Crusaders in Cape Town in 2008.

The Sharks lost their second successive match and dropped from first to third on the SA log when they were beaten by 12-6 by the Cheetahs in difficult conditions in Durban. The Bloem boys remain second on the SA log and 6th overall.

Sharks fans would probably like to forget this one, as it was the fifth time this season – and third successive time – that their team failed to score a try. It’s their longest “dry spell” ever and the first time since the inception of the competition that a South African franchise has gone without a try for 3 straight matches.

Two Springbok flyhalves moved past 100 season points on Saturday. Pat Lambie’s six points against the Cheetahs pushed him to 103 points for the season, while Morne Steyn’s 10 points against the Kings saw him move to a total of 107 points for the year.

 

Sharks 6 (3) Cheetahs 12 (7)

The Cheetahs reversed a five-match losing streak to the Sharks at a soaking wet Kings Park in Durban on Saturday when they won 12-6, outscoring their hosts by two tries to nil.

It was the Cheetahs’ first victory over the Sharks since 2010 and their 4th overall from 11 encounters between these two sides.

The atrocious conditions in Durban meant this match was never going to be a spectacle, with the wet ball making handling very difficult and both sides committing way too many unforced errors.

And like they did a few weeks ago against the Stormers, the Cheetahs pounced on mistakes by their opponents to score – first in the 28th minute when Raymond Rhule rounded off after a Sharks knock-on deep in the visitors’ half, and in the 77th minute Willie le Roux intercepted to score his team’s second try.

Both teams struggled tactically to use the conditions to their advantage, resulting in a comedy of errors, meaning that this match will be remembered as one that was lost rather than won.

Sharks – Penalty goals: Pat Lambie (2).

Cheetahs – Tries: Raymond Rhule, Willie le Roux. Conversion: Burton Francis.

 

Kings 0 (0) Bulls 34 (20)

Two tries in the last five minutes helped the Bulls to a bonus-point 34-0 victory over the Kings in front of a capacity crowd at the NMB Stadium in PE on Saturday evening.

The visitors played superb rugby in the first half, with Jan Serfontein and Jano Vermaak crossing the try-line as they kept up the pressure, but they struggled to build on that performance in the second half.

This partly because the Kings also played much better in this period, but eventually their travels of the last few weeks caught up with the PE boys as they conceded two more tries, to former EP stalwart Jacques Potgieter and Akona Ndungane.

The Bulls have been called boring in the past, but when they get going, they can score sublime tries, like the one by Vermaak midway through the first half. It started deep in their own half, with Serfontein making good ground before offloading in the tackle to Lionel Mapoe, who put Vermaak away for a 40 metre sprint after a strong surge upfield.

Potgieter crashed over following a period of physical dominance inside the Kings’ 22, and Ndungane’s injury-time try came after a great break by Bjorn Basson, who put his wing-partner away with a good inside pass.

The Kings seem to have erred in bringing Luke Watson straight back into the starting lineup after a long term injury. A start from the bench for the man clearly in need of some conditioning, with one of the stars of the season, Jacques Engelbrecht in the run on XV, might have worked better. But no Kings side was going to live with this Bulls side.

Kings – 0

Bulls – Tries: Jan Serfontein, Jano Vermaak, Jacques Potgieter, Akona Ndungane. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2), Louis Fouché (2). Penalty goal: Steyn. Drop goal: Steyn.

 

Other Round 10 results:

Hurricanes 22 Force 16 (Wellington)

Waratahs 25 Chiefs 20 (Sydney)

Crusaders 24 Highlanders 8 (Christchurch)

Reds 19 Brumbies 19 (Brisbane)