For all the science and homework that goes into the Bulls’ preparation, it was the execution that was sadly lacking at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday as they struggled to a 28-10 win over the Melbourne Rebels in their Super Rugby match.
The Bulls were clearly the stronger side as they led 21-3 at halftime, but the missed passes, dropped balls and poor options became an epidemic in the second half, which descended into a scrappy, impulsive affair that made for very poor viewing.
The first half was marked by a rousing display from hooker Adriaan Strauss, turning back the clock with some ferocious charges with ball in hand and, when those roads were blocked, he showed some lovely hands in playing a linking role in the middle of the field. It was enough to earn him the man of the match award.
- The Bulls were grateful to replacement scrumhalf Andre Warner for ensuring they secured a bonus point from their messy win. After concerted pressure for many minutes and numerous drives being stopped by fair means and foul by the Rebels, and scrums often being stopped early by referee Ben O’Keefe, it was the University of Pretoria product that had the bright idea to take a quick tap at the next penalty and just run straight over the line for the Bulls’ fourth try. In injury time, he then had to make a cover tackle on Rebels’ replacement wing Richard Hardwick to ensure he did not score the try that would have erased the bonus point.
- Referee O’Keefe contributed to the poor spectacle with a weak display of officiating. His view of the grey areas invariably seemed to favour the spoiling Rebels and his ham-handed refereeing allowed the visitors to get away with many infringements in stopping the Bulls’ drive, while the home side would have gone to town in the scrums had many of them not been blown up early for engagement issues.
- Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant did not get on the scoreboard on this occasion, but he certainly lit up Loftus Versfeld with some dazzling touches. How O’Keefe and TMO Willie Vos saw nothing wrong with wing Marika Koroibete’s late tackle on him that prevented him from dotting down his own grubber after a magnificent run befuddled most onlookers.
- The Bulls pack by and large acquitted themselves well, dominating their opposition, and players like Thembelani Bholi and Trevor Nyakane impressed with their work-rate on a difficult day. Left wing Divan Rossouw also had a very solid outing amongst the backs.
Bulls: Tries – Adriaan Strauss, Jesse Kriel, Divan Rossouw, Andre Warner. Conversions – Handre Pollard (4).
Melbourne Rebels: Try – Michael Ruru. Conversion – Jack Debreczeni. Penalty –Debreczeni.