Cape Town — The Blue Bulls tried hard, but their lack of experience and organisation was evident as they succumbed 32-7 to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday night.
The result means that the Pretoria franchise have lost 10 out of their last 12 matches across all competitions, including three consecutive defeats in the Currie Cup.
It wasn’t one-way traffic for the home side, but their superior cohesion and brute force at times was too much to handle for the Bulls as they secured a five-try bonus-point triumph.
Visiting coach Edgar Marutlulle would have called on his forwards in particular to create a solid base for a backline that included centres such as Wandisile Simelane and Lionel Mapoe, but that never happened.
The Cheetahs pack did the hard yards, with hooker Marnus van der Merwe making vital metres around the fringes with his carries at close quarters, while No 8 Jeandré Rudolph kept the defence busy a few channels wider.
The few opportunities that the Bulls received in the first half didn’t amount to much, with Rudolph ripping the ball out of a maul when it looked like the men in blue were going to score, while a possible touchdown earlier was also ruled out due to extra numbers in the lineout.
Veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar registered an early three-pointer, and the Cheetahs had to wait until the 21st minute to claim their first try, when flank Gideon van der Merwe dotted down from a lineout drive.
Despite their struggles, the Bulls produced arguably the best try of the game a few minutes later. Lock Reinhardt Ludwig put in a big hit inside his own 22, and the ball spilled loose.
Mapoe delivered a deft left-footed grubber for young wing Quewin Nortjé, who showed great composure to ride the tackle and offload to a flying hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels, who charged down the right flank and dived over in the corner.
At 10-7, the Bulls were well within reach, but the Wessels try was as good as it got for them.
They just made too many errors, with flyhalf Chris Barend Smit pushing the envelope too far in trying to offload in broken play, while No 8 Muller Uys received a yellow card for stopping the Cheetahs from taking a quick tap penalty.
Cheetahs No 2 Van der Merwe was rewarded for his hard work with a maul try of his own, and at 15-7 at halftime, the hosts were well in charge.
Coach Hawies Fourie would have been frustrated, though, by the wasted chance early in the second half when another maul try was disallowed due to the Cheetahs forwards moving out of the lineout too early.
But even though the Bulls had No 4 lock Jacques du Plessis, Wessels and Bok prop Lizo Gqoboka on the pitch, they were unable to edge the physical battle against a determined Cheetahs unit.
All the front-foot ball meant that wings Munier Hartzenberg and Daniel Kasende had ample space to punch holes in the Bulls defence, and they combined to hand Hartzenberg a thrilling try in the 51st minute.
Replacement loose forward Siba Qoma secured the bonus point by grabbing the fourth try on the hour mark, while fullback Cohen Jasper stretched over a fifth touchdown after the hooter to complete another forgettable night for the Bulls.
Cheetahs 32 – Tries: Gideon van der Merwe, Marnus van der Merwe, Munier Hartzenberg, Siba Qoma, Cohen Jasper. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (2). Penalty: Pienaar (1).
Blue Bulls 7 – Try: Jan-Hendrik Wessels. Conversion: Franco Knoetze (1).