The Bulls banished their Currie Cup ghosts with a well-deserved 30-18 victory over the Cheetahs in the Vodacom Super 14 on Friday night.
Bryan Habana’s intercept score in the final movement of the game gave the Bully Boys a valuable bonus point for scoring four tries, while robbing the Cheetahs of a point for finishing within striking distance of their opponents.
As per the speculation on keo.co.za earlier in the week, Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus made several key changes to his starting XV just before the match. Willem de Waal was given the No 10 jersey ahead of Meyer Bosman, while Bok prop CJ van der Linde and Samoan hooker Trevor Leota both came into the pack.
The Cheetahs got off to the perfect start in front of a record 34 000 crowd when Bulls No 8 Jacques Cronje knocked on, and the home side scored from the resultant scrum. The ball was passed out to fullback Bevin Fortuin who sent winger Eddie Fredericks away for a simple try and an early 7-0 lead.
The first quarter was played at a frantic pace. All the bad blood of the Currie Cup final bubbled to the surface, as the bitter rivals once again threw themselves into each other. If this is how South Africa’s Super 14 derbies are going to be played, then Jake White’s going to have a long injury list by the time the tournament ends on 27 May.
The Bulls soon settled down and responded with a try from winger Akona Ndungane on the 16-minute mark, after a perfectly timed pass from flank Johan Wasserman.
However, the Cheetahs troubled the Bulls line-out (the visitors lost seven on the night) and more than held their own in the scrums. A penalty from De Waal gave the Bloem Boys a 10-7 lead after 25 minutes, before a piece of magic from Bulls captain Fourie du Preez changed the course of the game.
The Bok scrumhalf threw an outrageous dummy, darted through the Cheetahs defence and found flank Danie Rossouw on his inside who was stopped just short of the tryine. The Bulls then swung the ball out to the right, where quick hands from Habana put fullback Johan Roets over in the corner.
The Bok winger was also involved in the Bulls’ third try, which came just before half-time. The Cheetahs had done well to poach a Bulls line-out, only for Barry Goodes to spill the ball forward after a taking a big hit from Habana inside the Bulls 22. The loose ball was intercepted by Bulls centre JP Nel, who ran past the halfway line before offloading to Hougaard. The flyhalf put Wynand Olivier away for the five-pointer and the Bulls were in control.
Hougaard, however, failed with both conversions and the visitors went into the changerooms with a 17-10 advantage. The flyhalf missed a relatively easy penalty soon after the break, before finally extending his side’s lead to 10 on the 60-minute mark.
While Hougaard only succeeded with four of his eight kicks at goal on the night, he dictated play brilliantly and his tactical kicking kept the Cheetahs pinned in their own half. The former Bok No 10 has been criticised for standing back in the pocket, but on Friday he attacked the advantage line and was able to free up his outside backs.
Like in the Currie Cup final, the Cheetahs refused to lie down. De Waal reduced the gap to seven with another penalty and when Ronnie Cooke scored with five minutes to go the Bulls were having flashbacks of Loftus. The former SA U21 centre had moved to the left wing after the introduction of Meyer Bosman off the bench, and he was on the end of a slick move that saw Kabamba Floors beat the tackle of Pedrie Wannenburg to create the overlap. Floors had an outstanding Super 14 debut and more than justified his place in the Cheetahs line-up.
With the score at 20-18 and De Waal receiving treatment for cramp, Bosman stepped up to take the conversion that would draw the teams level. As he began his approach, Habana charged out of the blocks and provided enough of a distraction for Bosman to miss his target.
Bosman’s blunder would prove costly. A minute later, Hougaard extended his side’s lead to five points, which forced the Cheetahs to push for the try. With the siren having sounded, a wild Cheetahs pass was accepted by Habana, who ran 40m for the bonus point score.
Cheetahs – Tries: Eddie Fredericks, Ronnie Cooke. Conversion: Willem de Waal. Penalties: De Waal (2).
Bulls – Tries: Akona Ndungane, Johan Roets, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana. Conversions: Derick Hougaard (2). Penalties: Hougaard (2).