Bulls (19) 25
Try: Jan Serfontein. Conversion: Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Penalties: Potgieter (5). Drop-goal: Potgieter
Lions (10) 17
Tries: Stefan Watermeyer, Willie Wepener. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2) Penalty: Boshoff
Loftus Versfeld - There was nothing pretty about it but in the end the Bulls finally brought their two-match losing start to this year’s Super Rugby season to a halt with this spirited win over the Lions at a wet Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The manner of victory would not have bothered the Bulls much as the persistent rain made it difficult for both sides to dish out the spectacle that was expected in this Jukskei River derby.
For the Bulls, this much-needed victory brought back on track their campaign that had been derailed by the Sharks and the Cheetahs in the past two weeks and has brought hope of a recovery as the Bulls brace themselves for an almighty clash against the Blues next week.
Sadly for the Lions, this loss brought to an end what many had described as a fairytale start to the season with the Lions having notched up two surprise wins over the Cheetahs and Stormers.
he conditions did play into the hands of the hosts’ kicking game and while a far cry from the sides that won the competition in 2007, 2009 and 2010, this Bulls team showed the patience and tactical acumen to play to their strengths.
Much of the calmness to the way in which the Bulls approached all facets of play would have largely come courtesy of the colossal figure of former captain Victor Matfield who made his first Super Rugby start since coming out of retirement this year.
While not as vocal as in his heydays, Matfield went about assisting captain Flip van der Merwe with the decision-making and his calls in the lineout were as flawless as when he led the Bulls in their golden years.
Also helping in the change of fortunes for the Bulls were the changes made by coach Frans Ludeke, with flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter’s contribution doing much to ease the bruised and dented egos of his teammates.
Unlike his predecessor in the position, Louis Fouche, Potgieter steadily controlled proceedings first by slotting over the penalties and by constantly driving the Lions forwards back into their own half when they looked to gain territorial advantage.
In the end Potgieter walked away with the bulk of his team’s points, kicking over five penalties, a drop-goal and a conversion to finish the night with an impressive 20 points enough to earn him the man-of-the-match award.
But the time that Potgieter was afforded on the ball was partially due to the hard yards the Bulls forwards put in, starting from the steady and dominant scrums, excellent lineout work to their surprisingly gritty and united effort at the breakdowns.
Fortune did favour them once when wing Akona Ndungane secured possession from an aimless Lions kick, for the Bulls backs to make the most of the possession with Jan Serfontein finishing off a well worked try from 10 metres.
As much as this performance will not convince the sceptics that the Bulls are back, it is the Lions who will be concerned at how few times they managed to get their hands on the ball.