Bulls' Warrick Gelant runs with the ball during their Super Rugby game against the Highlanders at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix
Bulls' Warrick Gelant runs with the ball during their Super Rugby game against the Highlanders at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Specman-inspired Bulls recover to beat Highlanders at Loftus

By Sibusiso Mjikeliso at Loftus Time of article published Mar 7, 2020

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PRETORIA – Rosko Specman sprinkled a big bag of his magic when he scored a hat-trick that helped the Bulls to a 38-13 win over the Highlanders yesterday, which snapped the Pretoria side’s four-match losing streak.

Loftus had become the place teams visit to prop up their confidence. It’s like fountain you visit when you want to feel better about yourself. An average Blues team grew extra limbs and size when they came here and won.

When first centre Josh Ioane scored and converted his own try 10 minutes in, it appeared as though that trend would continue with this average Highlanders team.

With typically swift ball movement and handling, the Highlanders struck the first blow. Captain Trevor Nyakane said in the week that they’d need to be wary of giving Aaron Smith quick ball from the base. But they were powerless to stop the feisty All Black scrumhalf’s snipes and darts.

But that was about as good as it got for the visitors. The Bulls squeezed the life out of the Highlanders pack throughout.

If all else failed, the Bulls knew they could always rely on their massive grunt in the scrum. Few Super Rugby teams have what the Bulls have in front-rowers Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane. Yesterday they complemented their scrum work with a well-oiled lineout and driving maul.

There was adventure in the way the Bulls hit back five minutes after the Ioane touchdown but no flash. They turned down the chance to have a pop at goal and went for an attacking lineout from which a beautiful, snaky maul developed. Hooker Jaco Visagie, at the back of it, went over for their first try.

A maddening period of errors and counter-errors ensued. The Bulls broke the defence through right wing Cornal Hendricks before quickly recycling the ball and getting it in the dangerous Specman’s hands. But the winger’s attempted inside pass to Nafi Tuitavake and Embrose Papier on his inside didn’t go to hand.

The Highlanders countered in a trice and looked dead certain to score but Johnny Kotze’s desperate tackle forced a knock-on from Dillon Hunt with the try line beckoning. That minute of madness summed up how wild and desperate both teams were this season.

The first half ended with a similarly error-ridden pattern from both sides. But the previously error-prone and rudderless Bulls were unrecognisable in the second half, both in their ball-handling and garish yellow and white kit.

Knowing their lineout was operating like a German automobile, they used it to spear their attack as quickly as the 48th minute. From the resultant pressure, Warrick Gelant went through to score in the corner.

Eight minutes later the “Specmagic” sprayed all over Loftus. The Blitzbok speed merchant sniped and went over after the Bulls forward pack made porridge of the Highlanders’ scrum.

Then, with their best move of the match, involving their best play-makers Manie Libbok and Gelant, the Bulls set up Specman again to produce his magic and the winger sealed the victory with his treble in the 72nd minute. His wing partner Hendricks sealed the deal late on.

Scorers

Bulls – (5) 38 Tries: Jaco Visagie, Warrick Gelant, Rosko Specman (3), Cornal Hendricks Conversions:  Manie Libbok (3), Morne Steyn

Highlanders – (10) 13 Tries: Josh Ioane Conversions: Josh Ioane Penalties: Josh Ioane (2)

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