Pierre Spies was monumental in the Blue Bulls 50-32 destruction of the Sharks in Durban.
Spies scored a try, should have had two more and created all sorts of chaos on attack as the Bulls surged towards the Absa Currie Cup play-offs, while leaving the Sharks with plenty to do in the final fortnight.
Spies was one of many current and past Springboks on show, but on the night he was easily the best of the internationals, with Wynand Olivier a close second as the Bulls produced their finest performance in the competition.
Gary Botha also enjoyed his best match for some time as the Bulls forwards clobbered the Sharks with a physically superior display in the set phases and in the tackle.
The Sharks may try and find some consolation in the late withdrawal of AJ Venter, but to argue Venters absence was significant would be more fantasy than fact. It is doubtful 15 Venter’s would have dealt with a Bulls pack that played with purpose and the prospect of not making the competition’s play-offs.
The Lions late rally for a semi-final has increased interest in the competition with just one league point separating the Bulls, Western Province and Sharks after this weekend.
The Bulls played with urgency and the Sharks never matched them in desperation. The home side threatened with a few counter attacks and surprisingly took the lead 13-12 in the first quarter. It was not a reflection of the play and Derick Hougaard restored order with a penalty and the Bulls never trailed again.
They led 27-20 at halftime and enjoyed the comfort of the bonus point try before the start of the second half. They then crushed the home team spirits within a minute of the kick-off when Spies scored after a very good kick from the impressive Heini Adams. It was a score that settled the match and Botha, mindful of the importance of the league points differential, turned to Hougaard to kick invaluable second half points that could prove influential in a fortnight.
Hougaard ended with 20 points, but as a team the Bulls will reflect on a 50 point success that showed the character of the side.
Tries – JP Pietersen, Adi Jacobs, Warren Britz, Ryan Kankowski
Convs – Ruan Pienaar (3)
Pens – James (2)
Tries – Hilton Lobberts, Wynand Olivier, Gary Botha, Akona Ndungane, Pierre Spies, Penalty try
Convs -Derick Hougaard (4)
Pens -Hougaard (4)
Sharks JP Pietersen, Odwa Ndungane, Waylon Murray, Bradley Barritt, Adrian Jacobs, Butch James, Ruan Pienaar, AJ Venter (captain), Jacques Botes, Warren Britz, Steve Sykes, Johann Muller, BJ Botha, Bismarck du Plessis and Kees Lensing. Subs: Jody Jenneker, Deon Carstens, Ryan Kankowski, Solly Tyibilika, Scott Mathie, Francois Steyn and Brent Russell.
Bulls 15. Johan Roets, 14. Akona Ndungane, 13. JP Nel, 12. Wynand Olivier, 11. Marius Delport, 10. Derick Hougaard, 9. Heini Adams, 8. Pedrie Wannenburg, 7. Hilton Lobberts, 6. Pierre Spies, 5. Francois van Schouwenburg, 4. Danie Rossouw, 3. Rayno Gerber, 2. Gary Botha (Captain) and 1. Jaco Engels. Subs: 16. Jan Adriaan Strauss, 17. Danie Thiart, 18. Adriaan Fondse, 19. Derick Kuun, 20. Neil Powell, 21. Morne Steyn and 22. Stefan Basson
Run of play
Warren Britz has taken over the captaincy after the late withdrawal of AJ Venter. As expected BJ Botha did also not start at tighthead prop. Sevens specialist Ryan Kankowski started at No 8 in Venter’s absence.
Opening five minutes belongs to the Bulls. They are the more physical at the breakdown and the early dominance leads to a try from SA under 21 star Hilton Lobberts. He shows a good step and strength to beat two tackles and score. Hougaard converts. 7-0.
Sharks almost score after Brad Barritt breaks the Bulls defence, but his pass is intercepted by Ndungane, who carries it over. Sharks attack from the scrum and win a penalty right in front of the posts, 10 metres out. Butch James goals the penalty. 7-3 to the Bulls after 8th minute.
Heinie Adams exposes JP Pietersen’s laziness under the high ball. The little scrumhalf chips and beats Pietersen for the collect. From the recycled ball Adi Jacobs is penalised. Bulls kick to the corner and from the lineout they drive for the corner. But they cough up the ball and the Sharks turn it over. Jacobs tries to kick the Sharks out of trouble, but only gets it as far as Ndungane, who beats two defenders and sets up the ruck. From the ruck Danie Rossouw finds Wynand Olivier, who beats Waylon Murray’s weak tackle to score. 12-3 to the Bulls. Hougaard’s touchline conversion misses.
Sharks haven’t had much ball and appear stunned at the physical dominance of the visitors. The home team are awarded a penalty for an illegal tackle. James goals it from 40 metres. Much needed points for the Sharks.
And more points for the Sharks. Bulls try and run the ball from a lineout on the Sharks 22. Awful pass mix up between Olivier and Hougaard. Sharks kicks through, win the race to the ball and from the recycled ball spread the ball wide to Pietersen who walks over untouched. Ruan Pienaar kicks the conversion. 13-12 to Sharks.
The Sharks score, against the run of play, has energised the Sharks. They are winning more ball and looking dangerous on attack. James puts Adi Jacobs into a gap, but the left winger knocks on and a potential try-scoring opportunity is lost.
Bulls lose Springbok loose-forward Pedrie Wannenburg through injury. Lobberts is impressive on the drive. Sharks penalised at the tackle and Hougaard, knowing the Bulls have the advantage, has a drop attempt. He misses. Penalty stays and Hougaard has a go from 30 metres. It is over. 15-13 to the Bulls after 25 minutes.
Pierre Spies drives strongly from a scrum attack. He makes 20 metres. The Sharks are guilty of three professional fouls in the next movement as the Bulls attack the tryline. Referee Mark Lawrence penalises the Sharks and sinbins Johan Muller. Bulls kick to the corner, drive the lineout and score through Gary Botha. 20-13 to Bulls. Hougaard’s touchline conversion misses.
The Sharks hit back with a fabulous counter attack started in their own 22. Kankowski is strong in the movement, so too Pienaar and Ndungane and Adi Jacobs finishes off the move. James converts. 20-all.
This time it is the Bulls who score from a Sharks mistake. Spies wins the Sharks lineout ball, drives up, Adams shifts it quickly to Olivier, who breaks the Sharks line and offloads superbly to Ndungane who has an easy run in. Hougaard nails a difficult conversion and the Bulls lead 27-20.
That’s halftime and the Bulls already have the bonus point for four tries.
The Bulls make it five tries in the first minute of the restart. Heinie Adams exposes the Sharks back three with a chip kick. Replacement back Francois Steyn fumbles the kick and Spies score the try when the bobbling ball sits up nicely. Hougaard converts. 34-20 to the Bulls.
The Bulls attack from the kick-off and Adams again puts the Sharks under pressure with a chip kick. The Bulls continue to apply the pressure and Spies is driven over. The decision is referred to the third official. He can’t make a call and the Bulls are awarded a five-metre scrum. Spies drives strongly and wins the Bulls a penalty. Content that they have the bonus point try, the Bulls kick for goal. 37-20 after 45 minutes.
Bulls counter attack through a kick through. Spies looks certan to score, but is taken out early and a penalty try is rightly awarded. 44-20 to Bulls after 50 minutes.
From the kick-off there is a charge down kick by Pienaar on Hougaard. Pienaar misses the ball in the ingoal area and Warren Britz follows up and scores. It is referred to the telly ref and he confirms the try. A very fortunate score for the home team, but they’ll take anything.
Brent Russell has finally been introduced on 55 minutes. Steyn is playing flyhalf with James having been replaced at halftime. Russell is playing wing and Jacobs has gone into the midfield for the injured Barritt.
The game has lost its structure and both teams are attacking regularly from turnover ball. Gary Botha is penalised for holding on and Steyn kicks to the corner. Sharks lineout and drive on Bulls 22, but they lose the ball and it sums up the type of match they’ve had.
The last two minutes have been atrocious. Turnovers and poor decision-making on both sides. The first hour has been played at a frenetic pace and the players are showing the strains. The Sharks are penalised and the Bulls kick for the corner to set up the lineout. Sharks defend the lineout well, but the Bulls retain possession and get a scrum feed.
Bulls stuff it up and Sharks counter, but typically they knock it on. Scrum feed to the Bulls on Sharks 22. The Sharks are penalised at the scrum and now the Bulls decide to kick at goal. Hougaard slots it. 47-27 after 67 minutes.
From the kick-off the Bulls attack and break the Sharks defence. Ndungane kicks ahead and Pietersen is caught in possession by Spies and Ndungane. He is penalised and Hougaard pops it over from 30 metres. And that’s the 50 for the Bulls.
Dick Muir finally sends on Solly Tyibilika after 70 minutes.
Pienaar ignites the Sharks as they search for the bonus point try. He is involved in the movement twice and Kankowski scores. Pienaar injures himself in the move and is replaced. Steyn misses the conversion. 50-32 with five minutes to go.