Cape Town — The Blue Bulls’ woes continued on Friday as they suffered their ninth defeat in a row across all competitions in a 32-28 Currie Cup loss to the Griffons in Welkom.
Not even a threat of lightning — which caused play to be suspended for a short period with three minutes left — could stop the ‘Purple People Eaters’ as they produced an outstanding performance to record their first triumph of the season.
Scrumhalf Jaywinn Juries scored 12 points with the boot as the Griffons scored four tries for a bonus-point win.
It was the home side who took the initiative from the start, with their heavier pack dominating the collisions.
Giant lock Jaco Willemse was almost always involved when things got rough, and he breached the advantage line in the lead-up to the opening try by No 8 Soso Xakalashe in the fifth minute.
Juries slotted a penalty soon afterwards to make it 10-0, and the Bulls defence had to absorb a number of attacking surges from the hosts.
The visitors worked their way back into the encounter, with centre Lionel Mapoe held up over the tryline early in the second quarter.
The Griffons’ dam wall had to give way, and it was through a smart move by the Bulls as flank Phumzile Maqondwana made good ground at a lineout, and following strong carries by No 8 Muller Uys and lock Jacques du Plessis, flyhalf Johan Goosen sent centre Wandisile Simelane over.
Juries landed a second penalty to extend the lead to six points, but it was coach Edgar Marutlulle’s team who grabbed the lead for the first time around the half-hour mark.
With scrumhalf Keagan Johannes lifting the tempo with his smooth service from the base, Simelane got over the advantage line before Johannes picked out a flying Uys for the second try.
Arguably the best touchdown of the game followed as Mapoe took on the defence before Johannes again lit the spark with a brilliant dart before offloading to Nizaam Carr, who put Jan-Hendrik Wessels through a gap.
It looked like the Bulls had taken charge at 21-13, but this Griffons side never go away, and they responded in typical fashion before half-time when the Bulls failed to clear from their 22 off a scrum, and Griffons flank JJ Pretorius charged through to score.
Juries missed a shot at goal to take the lead early in the second half, but with the Griffons forwards bashing their way through the Bulls pack, No 4 lock Willemse was rewarded for his relentless work-rate as he picked the ball up after a maul and jumped through the ruck to dot down and put his team 27-21 up.
Then disaster struck for the visitors as Goosen missed the ball in trying to field a grubber on his own tryline, and Griffons right wing Jamba Ulengo dived on the ball and was awarded the try by the TMO despite a desperate scramble by Johannes.
The Bulls made life difficult for themselves by wasting several attacking opportunities inside the Griffons half, especially from lineouts.
They strung a few passes together at the start of the final quarter, though, with Carr delivering the decisive offload for tighthead Robert Hunt to grab the four-try bonus point.
Goosen slotted the conversion to make it a four-point ball-game at 32-28 with 18 minutes left, and it seemed like the Bulls would hit back to clinch the victory.
But an overthrow on an attacking lineout resulted in a Hunt knock-on, and then fullback Franco Knoetze’s try was ruled out as wing Quewin Nortjé had a foot in touch.
Coached by former wing Jacques Juries, the Griffons came storming back and launched a series of attacks, but Bulls flank Carr saved the day with a crucial breakdown penalty on his line with three minutes left.
That’s when the lightning threat arrived and play was suspended for over 15 minutes, and true to form, the Bulls lost control of the ball once more inside the Griffons’ half.
The Northern Free State outfit then did enough to close things out and secure a momentous victory.
Griffons 32 – Tries: Soso Xakalashe, JJ Pretorius, Jaco Willemse, Jamba Ulengo. Conversions: Jaywinn Juries (3). Penalties: Juries (2).
Blue Bulls 28 – Tries: Wandisile Simelane, Muller Uys, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Robert Hunt. Conversions: Johan Goosen (4).