Bulls run Sharks off the park in Loftus Super Rugby Unlocked clash
CAPE TOWN – After two disappointing performances, the Bulls found the missing ingredients to rumble to a 41-14 bonus-point Super Rugby Unlocked victory over the Sharks in Pretoria on Saturday night.
It looked like Jake White’s charges had something to prove at Loftus Versfeld, especially upfront, after being unable to dominate physically in the win over Griquas and last week’s 19-17 reverse to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
This time around, not even a thunderstorm late in the game could stop the marauding Bulls as they discovered the mojo that was lacking on attack and defence in the first two weeks to score six tries to one.
While returning tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe came under pressure in the scrums from Ox Nche, the Bulls found great traction in the lineouts, where they disrupted the Sharks’ feed. Visiting No 2 Dylan Richardson, a livewire fetcher flank previously, experienced a bit of a nightmare with his throw-ins, with the Sharks losing at least five of their own lineouts that thwarted any attempt to get a maul or their attack going.
White felt that the Bulls were direct enough on attack before, but they found the right balance this time around as they created plenty of space out wide for speedsters Kurt-Lee Arendse and Travis Ismaiel to run into, while loose forwards Marco van Staden, Elrigh Louw and Duane Vermeulen pulled in the defence at close quarters.
Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch put his team ahead with a penalty in the 11th minute, and he regained the lead 12 minutes later after Morné Steyn levelled the score.
But just before the half-hour mark, the Bulls were rewarded for their endeavour when centre Stedman Gans produced a vicious sidestep to dance through for the first try after a wonderful passage of play where the likes of Ismaiel, Cornal Hendricks and David Kriel carried strongly.
The Bulls pack’s ascendancy led to their second try soon afterwards, when scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl broke from a ruck and found a flying flank Louw, who made the scoring offload to Van Staden.
Bosch kept the Sharks in the game with a third penalty to make it 17-9 at halftime, but following yet another lost lineout from the Durbanites, the Bulls struck through a third five-pointer, with Van Staden grabbing his second from a lineout drive.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt would have been pleased with the fight shown by his team in the second half, though, as they clawed their way back through a Richardson touchdown with less than half-an-hour to go.
But the men from Durban looked like a team who were coming off a bye as they lacked rhythm on attack and left too many gaps open in their defence.
The Bulls roared back to settle the result, with Steyn produced a well weighted grubber for Arendse, who sped through and pulled off a delightful pop pass for Gans to run in for his second try.
Replacement backs Marco Jansen van Vuren and Embrose Papier finished things off in style with the fifth and sixth Bulls tries that underlined their superiority.
Bulls 41 – Tries: Stedman Gans (2), Marco van Staden (2), Marco Jansen van Vuren, Embrose Papier. Conversions: Morné Steyn (4). Penalty: Steyn (1).
Sharks 14 – Try: Dylan Richardson. Penalties: Curwin Bosch (3)