There was a time when the Vodacom Blue Bulls were the national leaders in the art of scrummaging and they rolled back the clock to those days when their scrum led them to a 48-26 win over the Boland Cavaliers in their Currie Cup match in Wellington on Friday.
Loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka led the way as the Bulls obliterated the Boland scrum and set up numerous try-scoring opportunities. Gqoboka also enjoyed a couple of storming runs and the 26-year-old must be close to a call-up for the Springboks.
Brilliant use of the kicking game and their overwhelming power in the scrums allowed the Bulls to make a flying start as they went 12-0 up through tries by quick-footed fullback Ulrich Beyers and wing Bjorn Basson.
But the Bulls defence was less impressive and they began slipping tackles as mistakes allowed the Cavaliers to run at them. The home side stormed back to level the scores at 12-12 at halftime, the Boland forwards driving the Bulls back to their line as they held on to the ball for 25 phases, before flyhalf Theuns Kotze darted through the gap to score, followed by wing Danwel Demas dotting down between Basson’s legs after Kotze had put him away with a lovely show-and-go.
The Bulls took a 15-12 lead six minutes into the second half as Gqoboka firstly spearheaded an immense scrum to relieve pressure inside their 22 and then went on a fabulous run at the other end of the field to force the Cavaliers to concede a penalty to Tian Schoeman.
The Bulls scrum forced Boland back on to their line again in the 50th minute, giving flyhalf Schoeman the space to step one defender and dot down under the poles.
He converted his own try and the Bulls looked back in control at 22-12 up, but the Cavaliers were still hovering, waiting for their chance.
It came four minutes later as hooker Bandise Maku dropped the ball, Boland pounced and quickly countered down the right wing through Logan Basson, who made good ground before scrumhalf Marnus Hugo’s lovely run was stopped just short of the tryline. The Cavaliers were awarded a penalty, however, and Hugo took a quick tap and passed the ball out wide for eighthman Zandre Jordaan to stroll over the line.
Two minutes later and Boland had jumped into a 26-22 lead as Schoeman, trying a long, flat pass in the face of the defence, instead provided Kotze with an intercept try.
But Boland’s hopes were soon disappearing in the direction of their rapidly retreating scrum as the Bulls forwards piled in in the final quarter.
They made it back into the Cavaliers 22 thanks to good kicking and then a couple of huge scrums allowed flank Roelof Smit to pick up the ball and score the try that put them back into a 29-26 lead with Schoeman’s conversion.
They were soon back into Boland territory as wing Jamba Ulengo released Beyers with lovely hands and eighthman Hanro Liebenberg barged through two tacklers to score. The Bulls captain then reached into another massive scrum to dot down and seal victory with eight minutes remaining.
The Bulls then celebrated moving temporarily into top spot on the log as Gqoboka put himself on the try-scorers’ list after a strong charge from lock RG Snyman.
Boland Cavaliers – Tries: Theuns Kotze (2), Danwel Demas, Zandre Jordaan. Conversions: Kotze (3).
Blue Bulls – Tries: Ulrich Beyers, Bjorn Basson, Tian Schoeman, Roelof Smit, Hanro Liebenberg (2), Lizo Gqoboka. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (5). Penalty: Schoeman.