The Blue Bulls scored six tries to beat the Sharks 46-30 in the U21 final at Ellis Park.
The Bulls came into this match as favourites having beaten the Sharks 25-18 (in Durban) and 37-28 (in Pretoria) during the league stage of the competition. With the Bulls senior side failing to make the Currie Cup play-offs, U21 coach Nollis Marais was able to strengthen his team by selecting inside centre Francois Venter, flyhalf Louis Fouche, eighthman CJ Stander and flanker Arno Botha.
The Bulls made the ideal start to the final when loosehead prop Juan Schoeman crashed over in the seventh minute after a lengthy build-up. That was followed by a try to left wing Courtnall Skosan, which came from a turnover on the Sharks 10m line.
The Sharks hit back when a charge down resulted in a long-range try for scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, only to concede another turnover that saw Stander set off on a 40m run. The No 8 was eventually brought to ground on the Sharks 22, but the ball was quickly recycled to Botha, who went over in the left corner.
Fouche kicked a penalty to make it 22-10, but the Sharks would have been closer had their fullback Gouws Prinsloo, the top point-scorer in this year’s U21 competition, not missed four penalty attempts at goal.
Prinsloo missed a fifth early in the second half before finally finding the target, but the Bulls quickly regained the ascendancy with Stander and lock Franco Mostert scoring tries to make it 36-13 at the end of the third quarter.
Then came the Sharks’ fightback.
First, replacement flank Francois Kleinhans went over, with Prinsloo kicking the conversion and a penalty. Then Reinach burst through a gaping hole in the Bulls’ defence to score under the posts and make it 36-30 with six minutes to go.
However, the Bulls sealed the win when replacement Dalton Davis scored his side’s sixth try. Fouche slotted the conversion and then kicked a penalty on the full-time hooter to ensure that the final score reflected his side’s dominance.
By Simon Borchardt, at Ellis Park