The Bulls physically battered the Blues into submission to win for the first time in Super Rugby history at Auckland’s Eden Park.
The Bulls won 28-21 against a home team that physically took a beating.
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan made six changes to his starting XV and the powerful Bulls approach never allowed the newcomers to settle.
Kirwan at halftime bemoaned his side’s lack of passion, pride and commitment, but the Bulls were physically too strong for the Blues youngsters, who got their first taste of Pretoria’s finest.
The Bulls, as the Cheetahs did against the Highlanders, showed greater control, composure and appreciation for field position in giving the hosts a Super Rugby lesson. The South Africans were also physically imposing and did brilliantly to last the 80 minutes, given they only arrived in Auckland from Pretoria on Wednesday.
The Blues, under pressure throughout, fought back from 15-6 to momentarily lead 16-15 on 53 minutes. But the Bulls scored through flanker Arno Botha from the resulting kick-off to restore order and Morne Steyn ensured the victory with a penalty from the last kick of the game.
The Bulls scored three tries and could have had a few more. They played with enterprise and always looked dangerous on attack. The midfield of Wynand Olivier and JJ Englebrecht was strong but it was the strength in the contact that was decisive.
Rene Ranger played well for the Blues, as did captain Ali Williams and fullback Charles Piutau, but the rest were a shambles.
Williams described the effort as ‘piss poor’ and said the team would have lost respect with the performance after working so hard in the season’s first two games to win back respect.
The win is the first for every Bulls player, be it at Super Rugby or for the Boks, at Eden Park.
It completed a South African 3-0 clean sweep weekend against New Zealand teams, which like a Bulls win in Auckland doesn’t happen often. Enjoy it because it was fully deserved.
By Mark Keohane