Cape Town — At long last, the drought is over! The Blue Bulls ended a horror run of 10 consecutive defeats with a convincing 40-3 bonus-point victory over Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
The Pretoria franchise, who fielded their strongest possible team, scored six tries in a determined performance against an outclassed Griquas outfit.
Director of rugby Jake White implored his players this week to just get a win after defeats in two Champions Cup and four games each in the United Rugby Championship and Currie Cup, and they delivered to bring some relief in the capital city’s rugby circles.
While the Bulls were well below their best form, it was a workmanlike display, with the forwards putting in the hard yards as they dominated the scrums, won their lineouts easily and put the heat on the Griquas ball-carriers in defence.
The Bulls runners pounded away at the tryline early on, but it was impressive scrumhalf Embrose Papier who added the necessary bit of magic as he darted around a ruck and offloaded to lock Ruan Vermaak for the opening try in the seventh minute.
Griquas played with good width on attack themselves too, with the likes of wing Rosko Specman and centre Jay-Cee Nel prominent, and they eventually had a George Whitehead penalty to show for their efforts.
But Springboks Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie got increasingly involved in the Bulls’ attack, and they seemed to break the line almost at will as the surfeit of front-foot ball from the pack provided great momentum.
The home side looked better organised on attack as well, and the second try came via tighthead prop Mornay Smith following strong carries by Harold Vorster and Elrigh Louw.
The pressure and penalty count mounted for the visitors, and flank Stephan Smit was yellow-carded for the team’s repeated infringements on the half-hour mark, which allowed the Bulls even more space to manoeuvre.
They took full advantage, with flank Cyle Brink forcing his way over after Louw was stopped short from a tap penalty, and then Papier finished off the half in style when the ever-alert Arendse picked up the ball from a Griquas knock-on inside his 22 and raced downfield before delivering the scoring pass.
With a 26-3 halftime lead, the Bulls looked home and dry, but considering their travails over the last few months, they would’ve known that they would need a few more points to secure the victory.
Griquas showed some fighting spirit by nearly getting their first try in the 49th minute as they bashed away at the Bulls line, but centre Stedman Gans made a vital tackle on No 8 Carl Els to dislodge the ball.
It seemed to be the cue for that man Arendse to wave his magic wand once more, and he produced a superb burst of pace to break through a few tackles and offload to left wing David Kriel to dot down.
The Bulls were in full flow at this stage, with Louw unlucky not to score after being held up over the line, but a minute later, loosehead prop Gerhard Steenekamp showed why he was a No 8 as a junior as he ran a superb line and charged over from 20-odd metres for a memorable five-pointer.
Griquas never stopped trying and had a few opportunities in the final quarter, but the last pass seldom went to hand.
For the Bulls, though, it was just what they needed ahead of next Saturday’s URC clash against Zebre at Ellis Park.
Blue Bulls 40 – Tries: Ruan Vermaak, Mornay Smith, Cyle Brink, Embrose Papier, David Kriel, Gerhard Steenekamp. Conversions: Chris Smith (5).
Griquas 3 – Penalty: Whitehead (1).