GARETH DUNCAN reports on the Bulls’ 39-26 bonus-point win against the winless Leopards on Saturday.
As the scoreline suggests, it wasn’t the convincing performance expected from the defending champions, but they did enough to come away with maximum log points from their trip to Potchefstroom.
Bulls head coach Frans Ludeke would lament his side’s static start to the match, which allowed the Leopards to build an early advantage. But from the second quarter, the visitors gained ascendancy and the Leopards were closed out by a more physical and composed Bulls outfit.
The Leopards created try-scoring opportunities soon after the kickoff as gaps opened up in the Bulls’ defence. This saw the home team surge into a 10-0 lead as wing Dumisani Matyeshana penetrated through the midfield for an easy try while flyhalf Clayton Durand added a conversion and penalty. The Leopards created more opportunities but they couldn’t find the composure to finish them.
The Bulls fought their way back and levelled the scores after exposing the Leopards’ right wing channel as they ran in two tries through flanker Derick Kuun and wing Jaco van der Westhuyzen.
Flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter was unable to find the target from the touchline on both occasions and this allowed the Leopards to regain the lead as Durand converted his second penalty. More bad news followed for the visitors as skipper Gary Botha and Van der Westhuyzen limped off early with injuries. But this did not halt any Bulls momentum.
They came back strongly in the closing moments of the first stanza to secure the four-try bonus point before half-time. The Leopards failed to solve their defensive woes out wide and the Bulls capitalised as centre Jaco Pretorius and replacement wing Hayden Groepes both ran in at the left corner. Potgieter made up for his earlier misses by adding all the extras for a 24-13 lead at the break.
The win was sealed early in the second half as scrumhalf Francois Hougaard scored a runaway try in the 45th minute after a poor Leopards lineout. This was followed by an erratic period of play from both teams.
Durand and Potgieter traded penalties before Leopards replacement flyhalf Cecil Dumond scored a consolation try at the death to add respectability to the score. Centre Stefan Watermeyer found time to score the Bulls’ sixth try for the final action of the match.