Cape Town — The Bulls did what they needed to do against the Ospreys on Friday night, and now they have to wait to see where they will end up on the United Rugby Championship log and who they will face in the quarter-finals.
The men from Pretoria were dominant at times as they ran in six tries — including a hat-trick by Cornal Hendricks — to secure a 38-31 victory over the Welsh outfit in Swansea.
They moved up to third on the standings with 58 points, one behind Ulster — who beat the Sharks 24-21 in Belfast on Friday night — and four adrift of leaders Leinster. They will now hope that the Stormers go down to the Scarlets, or if that doesn’t happen, Munster need to lose to Leinster in the final league game on Saturday in order for the Bulls to host a playoff at Loftus Versfeld on June 4.
But that is out of their hands. What was in their control was beating the Ospreys, and they did so in convincing fashion at the Swansea.com Stadium.
They were so dominant in the first half — with their scrum motoring forward and the likes of locks Walt Steenkamp and Ruan Nortje, as well as prop Gerhard Steenekamp and captain Marcell Coetzee punching holes in the Ospreys defence — that they should have had more than just the 12-0 lead after 30 minutes.
Welsh Test stars such as locks Alun Wyn Jones and Adam Beard, as well as centre George North, were well off the pace and never had any major influence on the team, while they seemed helpless to stop the blue tide.
The home side were quite meek in defence, and couldn’t withstand the onslaught from the Bulls forwards at close quarters. The South Africans made significant ground up the middle through the pack, and not even the loss of Cyle Brink after 15 minutes to what looked like a knee injury disrupted their momentum.
Their first try was just too easy, with Harold Vorster and then Elrigh Louw barging their way over the advantage line, before Zak Burger found Madosh Tambwe on the left, and the No 11 grabbed the five-pointer.
It took about 15 more minutes before the second touchdown, and again the Bulls forwards rumbled up the middle before flyhalf Chris Smith showed some neat footwork to dot down.
But the Ospreys finally got something going before halftime and punished the Bulls for wasting chances as they capitalised on a knock-on by Canan Moodie, with two quick tap penalties by Rhys Webb before flank Jac Morgan got the ball down on the line.
Gareth Anscombe’s conversion made it 12-10 to the Bulls at the break, and it looked like the visitors had blown a great chance to put the Ospreys away in the opening 40 minutes.
But coach Jake White must have let rip in the change-room as all of a sudden, the errors that had hampered his team disappeared in the second half.
Hendricks got the show going with a sniping break before Moodie strolled over, and then the four-try bonus point arrived courtesy of the Bulls No 13 himself, who ran a lovely line to finish.
Even when Luke Morgan pulled one back for the Ospreys, the Bulls weren’t in danger of losing, and it was Man-of-the-Match Hendricks who landed the knockout punch with two touchdowns in three minutes after the hour mark.
Two late tries by the Ospreys gave them two losing bonus points to move them up to 46, but their Champions Cup qualification fate are in the hands of the Scarlets (44), who need to beat the Stormers on Saturday to win the Welsh Shield.
Ospreys 31 — Tries: Jac Morgan, Luke Morgan (2), Sam Parry. Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (4). Penalty: Anscombe (1).
Bulls 38 — Tries: Madosh Tambwe, Chris Smith, Canan Moodie, Cornal Hendricks (3). Conversions: Chris Smith (4).