Cape Town — It wasn’t pretty, but the Blue Bulls used their blunt-force approach to good effect to snuff out any chance of an upset in a 40-20 Currie Cup bonus-point victory over Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday.
In windy conditions in the Northern Cape that saw players having to keep the ball grounded for the goal-kickers, the men from Pretoria kept their semi-final hopes alive with a workmanlike display.
They took just 43 minutes to grab their four tries and the vital bonus point to move up to 22 points on the log, just one behind Griquas and five behind fourth-placed Western Province, with four league games remaining.
The Bulls were met with fierce resistance from Griquas initially, with the home side even gaining in the upper hand in the scrums, where the front row of Kudzwai Dube, Janco Uys and Janu Botha put some pressure on Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Grobbelaar.
Griquas were going hard at the breakdowns as well, and pounced whenever the Bulls tried to take the ball wide and play a loose game.
The visitors came up with the first try against the run of play in the eighth minute, and it was down to some terrific skill from No 8 Elrigh Louw and livewire scrumhalf Embrose Papier. With the scrum wheeling around on the halfway line, Louw kept his composure to offload in the tackle to Papier, who streaked up the middle and then left Rosko Specman for dead to race over.
Griquas found their rhythm with ball-in-hand too, and took the ball through 16, eight and 11 phases, but they were met with a solid Bulls defensive wall who did well to hold out and only concede three points to flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela.
Ruan Nortjé and his team’s patience was eventually rewarded after half-an-hour, when Grobbelaar forced his way over from close range after tighthead prop Mornay Smith came up just short.
Papier nearly grabbed a second just before halftime, but was tackled into touch in-goal, but the third Bulls try arrived soon enough as No 8 Louw touched down after Grobbelaar burst away.
Griquas needed to score first in the second half to get back into the game, but with Papier applying the pressure with a couple of excellent box-kicks, the Bulls took charge when Grobbelaar scored his second five-pointer in the 43rd minute.
The Bulls No 2 was the villain almost immediately afterwards when a wild pass was intercepted by Griquas scrumhalf Johan Mulder, who had enough pace to reduce the deficit to 26-8.
But the Bulls forwards continued to grind away, with flank Marcell Coetzee prominent and skipper Nortjé continually opting for penalties to be kicked into touch, while centres Harold Vorster and Stedman Gans showed some good variety on attack and were busy in defence.
They added a fifth try following a lovely chip by flyhalf Chris Smith, which was caught by left wing Marco Jansen van Vuren, who cantered over.
In typical fashion, Griquas never gave up, and with 16 minutes to go, centre Jay-Cee Nel dived over to add some respectability to the scoreboard.
They added another five-pointer just before the end through replacement flank Stephan Smit, but the Bulls finished off in style with a Simphiwe Matanzima try.
Griquas 20 – Tries: Johan Mulder, Jay-Cee Nel, Stephan Smit. Conversion: Lubabalo Dobela (1). Penalty: Dobela (1).
Blue Bulls 40 – Tries: Embrose Papier, Johan Grobbelaar (2), Elrigh Louw, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Simphiwe Matanzima. Conversions: Chris Smith (5).