Bulls show pedigree to rumble past spirited Sharks, end second on URC log

Bulls No 8 Cameron Hanekom charges towards Sharks centre Ethan Hooker at Kings Park yesterday. Photo: BackpagePix

Bulls No 8 Cameron Hanekom charges towards Sharks centre Ethan Hooker at Kings Park yesterday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 2, 2024


It was a case of everyone left Kings Park happy last night in that the Bulls nailed the five United Rugby Championship log points they wanted for a shot at topping the table, while the Sharks delivered on their promise to entertain their fans in this season finale.

That was accomplished in style as both teams contributed positively to a cracking game of rugby in the Bulls’ 26-14 win.

It was an excellent signing-off note for the year’s league stage, and Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus would have enjoyed the attacking intent of the teams.

The Bulls did all they could to get the required five log points to top the standings temporarily, and they needed Ulster to beat Munster in Limerick last night.

But RG Snyman’s band of warriors survived a proper onslaught from the Belfast outfit to clinch a 29-24 to secure the No 1 spot on 68 points, with the Bulls – who will host Benetton in their quarter-final in Pretoria next Saturday – second on 66.

The pre-game refrain from the Sharks was that not a good deal could be expected of a side that was battle-weary from the Challenge Cup, but there was a suspicion that this was always a smokescreen.

Coach John Plumtree had spoken of a “compromised” preparation.

Still, the reality was that the Sharks were always going to get up for their last home game of the season, and they wanted a quality performance ahead of the parading of the Challenge Cup to their faithful fans.

Plumtree was correct in putting some excuses on the table, but it is testimony to the team culture that he has been building that the players dug deep and shook off the Challenge Cup hangover.

Sharks flank Vincent Tshituka tries to evade the tackle of Bulls centre David Kriel at Kings Park yesterday. Photo: BackpagePix

The opening quarter saw the Bulls in full defence mode, and the pressure told underneath their posts when a rudimentary error allowed Siya Masuku to cap his great season with a pick-up and dot-down try that he converted with his eyes closed.

It says plenty about the pedigree of the Bulls that the first time they ventured into the Sharks’ 22, in the 23rd minute, they scored via in-form centre David Kriel, with Johan Goosen missing the conversion.

There could have been another a few minutes later, but for a startling cover tackle by rising youngster Ethan Hooker on Kurt-Lee Arendse.

The second try did come for the visitors bang on the 30th minute when a penalty kicked to the corner resulted in a regulation maul try for hooker Johan Grobbelaar.

It was 12-7 to the Bulls at half-time, and the second half began with the Sharks once more blasting out of the blocks.

The entertainment continued to be rich, and there was a passage of play five minutes into the half that was worth the price of the admission ticket.

The Sharks were camping on the Bulls’ line when the ball popped out to tryline defender Canan Moodie.

The wing sprinted most of the field’s length, but was hauled in just short of the line by Aphelele Fassi, with the Sharks fullback answering critics who suggest his defence is suspect.

In the resulting melee, Sharks flank Vincent Tshituka was yellow-carded for a professional foul in sealing off the ball.

— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) June 1, 2024

There was always the feeling that the Sharks would tire in the fourth quarter and that the likes of Bulls’ energiser Akker van der Merwe could make a difference, and that is exactly what happened, with the replacement hooker scoring off the base of a ruck in the 75th minute.

But the Sharks were not finished, and replacement flank Dylan Richardson wriggled through a series of attempted tackles to score a try and make a statement to Scotland coach Gregor Townsend.

The irrepressible Van der Merwe scored his second try to give the Bulls the vital bonus point, and they had to await the result of Munster’s clash against Ulster last night to see whether they would remain on top of the log.


Sharks 14 – Tries: Siya Masuku, Dylan Richardson. Conversions: Masuku (2).

Bulls 26 – Tries: David Kriel, Johan Grobbelaar, Akker van der Merwe (2). Conversions: Johan Goosen (2), Chris Smith (1).

URC Quarter-Finals (SA Times)

Friday June 7 – 8.35pm: Munster v Ospreys, Thomond Park, Limerick

Saturday June 8 – 3.30pm: Bulls v Benetton, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

6pm: Leinster v Ulster, Aviva Stadium, Dublin

8.35pm: Glasgow v Stormers, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow