Having come to the capital with plenty of fire in their belly and high in confidence after their monumental win against the Highlanders last week, the Sharks seemed to believe that their brute force would be enough to bulldoze the Bulls. But it was not.
Instead it was the Bulls who won this brutal and bruising toe-to-toe battle 39-33 to not only extend their unbeaten run against the Sharks to seven matches, six wins and a draw, but this win also catapulted them from the bottom of the South African conference to third spot behind the Lions and Jaguares.
And just like they had done in Durban a month ago, the home side confronted the hard running Sharks forwards with the same venom and brutality in the tackle which more than often left the visitors out of ideas on attack. However, what won the Bulls this encounter besides the bravery they showed on defence, despite the 30 odd missed tackles, was the accuracy with which they finished off the opportunities created on the Sharks try-line.
The men in blue were ruthless when they sniffed blood deep in Sharks territory and their five tries were well worked masterpieces of how far they have come as a side under the mentorship of John Mitchell.
At the heart of the Bulls attacks was Springbok Warrick Gelant whose performance was almost a replica to his five star, hat-trick of tries that powered the Bulls to victory in Durban. Gelant, once again, tormented, taunted and toyed with the Sharks defence with his deceptively fast injection of speed off the mark, timely grubbers, short passes and the overhead basketball pass.
It was only just that Gelant be the first to open the scoring for the hosts after a Jesse Kriel grubber bounced cruely for the covering Makazole Mapimpi for Gelant to gather and dive over. It was the Bulls' ability to strike another telling blow soon after Gelant’s try that swung the momentum in their favour with Kriel the recipient and scorer of another lightning attack after Roelof Smit had powered his way over a few would-be Sharks defenders.
All of this the Bulls did with a one man numerical advantage after Curwin Bosch had stupidly tripped Gelant who was advancing full steam ahead for the try-line.
And the Sharks continued to suffer under the spell of Gelant who tore the Sharks defence to shreds before offloading to Travis Ismaiel who did well to stay in the field of play for Smit to pick up and score just before the half an hour mark.
Even though this battle had often looked one-sided in the first half, the Sharks showed character and continued to throw punches of their own as they ran in two tries and a long range penalty from Bosch to bring themselves to within five points at half-time.
The momentum seemed to swing in favour of the Sharks in the second half courtesy of two penalties from Robert du Preez which also handed the visitors the lead but they quickly conceded it after a fortuitous try from Bulls wing Johnny Kotze and a well worked five pointer by the evergreen Springbok lock Lood de Jager.
De Jager’s try was the fatal blow to the Sharks cause as the Bulls had opened up a 16-point gap with 12 minutes to play which proved to be a bridge too far for the Sharks.
Even though Jean-Luc du Preez crossed over the whitewash in the final 10 minutes, the only consolation the Sharks could get out of this predictable but commendable performance was a bonus point.
The Bulls walked away deserved winners for the genius they showed on attack while wearing the hearts on their sleeves in defence. But more fitting for Mitchell’s troops is how they have brought themselves back into contention for the play-offs.
Bulls (22) 39: Tries - Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel, Roelof Smit, Johnny Kotze, Lood de Jager. Conversions - Handré Pollard (4). Penalties - Pollard (2). Yellow card: RG Snyman (34th minute)
Sharks (17) 33: Tries - Curwin Bosch, Jacques Vermeulen, J du Preez. Conversions - R du Preez (3). Penalties: - Bosch, Rdu Preez (3). Yellow card: Bosch (10th minute), Lukhanyo Am (68th minute)