Kurt-Lee Arendse spurs Bulls to victory over Saracens

Kurt-Lee Arendse of the Blue Bulls during the 2023 Currie Cup match between Western Province and Blue Bulls held at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town

File. The Bulls may have missed out on a bonus point, but Springbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse (pictured) provided some sizzling touches to spark the 27-16 Champions Cup victory over a 14-man Saracens. Picture: Thinus Maritz/BackpagePix

Published Dec 10, 2023


Cape Town – The Bulls may have missed out on a bonus point, but Springbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse provided some sizzling touches to spark the 27-16 Champions Cup victory over a 14-man Saracens at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

England No 8 Billy Vunipola received a red card in the 52nd minute for a dangerous ruck clean-out on opposite number Cameron Hanekom, which should have seen the Bulls claim a four-try bonus point.

Instead, it was the visitors who fought back in the final quarter to produce two touchdowns of their own and some respectability to the scoreboard.

Bulls director of rugby Jake White won’t be pleased with the poor discipline from his players in the second half as they conceded a number of penalties and a yellow card to Janko Swanepoel, following a team warning for repeated infringements.

Frustration tactics

But the former Bok boss will be pleased that his team managed to absorb the disruption caused by Saracens’ spoiling tactics, which frustrated the hosts at times.

The English club tried to slow the game down as much as possible as they looked to find touch, use their driving maul to good effect and utilise a few smart skills in the scrums to try to negate the all-Springbok front row of Gerhard Steenekamp, Akker van der Merwe and Wilco Louw.

The Bulls, though, came flying out of the blocks, grabbing their first touchdown via inside centre David Kriel in the third minute following a superb Canan Moodie line-break.

Moodie, Arendse and fullback Willie le Roux combined brilliantly on the night to launch several outstanding counter-attacks from Saracens kicks.

They nearly pulled off a Try-of-the-Season contender in the 12th minute when captain Elrigh Louw rounded off after flyhalf Johan Goosen opted to attack from his own 22, with Kriel and Arendse involved once more – but referee Andrea Piardi ruled it out for a forward pass.

Goosen and Saracens captain Owen Farrell traded a few more penalties to make it 13-6, but despite a yellow card to visiting fullback Alex Goode for a late tackle on Arendse, the Bulls were unable to capitalise as their handling and continuity with ball-in-hand let them down.

The home team were able to take advantage of a second Saracens yellow card just before halftime – to lock Maro Itoje for a cynical ruck infringement – as lock Swanepoel scored off a tap penalty to establish a 20-6 halftime lead.

The Bulls were denied another terrific touchdown early in the second half after another forward pass – from Kriel – ruled out a second Swanepoel five-pointer.

Beginning of the end

But a few minutes later, Moodie rounded off the best passage of play on the night as Le Roux fed Arendse, who put his foot down and sliced through the Saracens defence with electric pace before finding his Bok World Cup teammate out wide.

A desperate ankle tap saw Moodie going down, but he had enough time to get up and dot down.

Vunipola’s red card followed soon enough, and the Bulls should’ve dominated the rest of the game at 27-6 up.

Instead, centre Elliot Daly and replacement lock Theo McFarland scored in the final quarter as Saracens showed real character to deny the Bulls a bonus point.


Bulls 27 – Tries: David Kriel, Janko Swanepoel, Canan Moodie. Conversions: Johan Goosen (3). Penalties: Goosen (2).

Saracens 16 – Tries: Elliot Daly, Theo McFarland. Penalties: Owen Farrell (2).