Johan Goosen stars as Bulls bring the heat to knock South Africa A over
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CAPE TOWN – While South Africa A went down 17-14 to the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber would’ve been more disappointed by the lack of ambition of many of his players in pushing for Test selection.
Fullback Aphelele Fassi was the best in the SA A side, but with so much uncertainty regarding the availability of several first-choice stars for next Saturday’s first Test against the British and Irish Lions, one would’ve expected much more from the national squad members against the Bulls.
But they started off slowly, using a number of up-and-unders early on and kicking the ball away instead of testing the Bulls defence with ball-in-hand.
They lacked rhythm on attack, with way too many knock-ons and poor decisions against a committed Bulls outfit.
The forwards rarely took a backward step to the national outfit, getting stuck into the physical exchanges and disrupting their lineout feed, while they stood strong in the scrums.
SA A locks Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Jean-Luc du Preez were under pressure throughout to secure possession on their own throw, with Bulls second-rowers Walt Steenkamp and Ruan Nortje contesting well in the air.
The Bulls loose trio of captain Nizaam Carr, Muller Uys and WJ Steenkamp also got the better of their SA A counterparts Marco van Staden, Rynhardt Elstadt and Kwagga Smith on attack and defence.
Carr showed his class with a number of silky touches with ball-in-hand, while also working hard around the fringes, while Steenkamp used his big frame to good effect to punch holes up the middle.
SA A got the scoring going, though, when scrumhalf Cobus Reinach displayed good pace to break around a ruck and put the industrious Fassi over in the 12th minute.
But the Bulls never held back, and even resorted to tap penalties in the opposition 22 to keep up the heat on their opponents. Wandisile Simelane eventually received a yellow card for those repeated infringements, but the Pretoria team were unable to convert that advantage into points.
Simelane, though, was able to put his team further ahead just before halftime after SA A finally got a few phases together, and it looked like they were going to ease to victory with a 14-0 halftime lead.
But after another 20 minutes of scrappy rugby in the second half, the Bulls suddenly switched into gear, and the man who sparked it all was flyhalf Johan Goosen.
Having been praised by White before the match for his playmaking ability, the Bulls No 10 backed it up with deft offloads, strong runs and adding width to the attack to be chosen as the Man of the Match.
And it was the former Cheetahs pivot who made things happen in the final quarter. Goosen produced a scintillating line-break to put substitute scrumhalf Keagan Johannes over the whitewash, and soon afterwards, he again created a half-break and offloaded in the tackle.
The Bulls carried it all the way into the SA A 22, and kept the ball alive with a cross-kick that was gathered by Johan Grobbelaar to level the scores at 14-14.
Then with a few minutes to go, Bulls reserve flyhalf Chris Smith slotted a long-range penalty for a well-deserved victory.
South Africa A 14 – Tries: Aphelele Fassi, Wandisile Simelane. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2).
Bulls 17 – Tries: Keagan Johannes, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2). Penalty: Chris Smith (1).