This time the Blue Bulls cut out the silly errors and produced a dazzling display of rugby as they beat the Pumas 39-29 in their Currie Cup match at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night, running and handling with aplomb.
The Pumas never gave up, scoring their fourth try on the final hooter to earn themselves a bonus point that keeps them just alive in the competition. Their expansive approach suited the Blue Bulls to a tee, with the home side showing their superior skills on attack to run in six tries.
Who was the star in this match?
Flank Nic de Jager was the standout player as he was able to alleviate some of the pressure on his place in the team. De Jager gave a brilliant all-round display, carrying the ball strongly, defending stoutly and also linking superbly as befits a player who has often turned out at eighthman. The Bulls loose forward combination, with captain Hanro Liebenberg returning from illness at the back of the scrum and Ruan Steenkamp on the openside, also combined very well as a unit.
Key moments and themes
- The Blue Bulls gained the upper hand in the first quarter as they scored three tries, the last two fully utilising the width of the field and the space that was available to them. The superb linking play of the backs and forwards created the space out wide for pacy wing Jade Stighling to score the opening try in the 12th minute, and then the try of the match came in the 21st minute. The home side swept forward from their own half, with some incredible handling from both forwards and backs, prop Dayan van der Westhuizen finishing off a magnificent try, in which most of the team handled, for a 19-3 lead.
- The Blue Bulls then had to absorb a period of pressure from the Pumas, which saw the visitors close to within two points at 17-19. The home side were struggling in the rucks and giving away penalties, which allowed the Pumas to kick for touch and set their strong lineout maul, both flank Marnus Schoeman and hooker Marko Janse van Rensburg scoring from the drive.
- This time the Blue Bulls did stay focused on the task at hand, though, Stighling getting on the scorecard for the second time just before halftime. The Bulls were able to build on their 27-17 lead after the break, with scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl scoring from a clever short lineout and interplay with excellent hooker Jaco Visagie, and flank Jano Venter then rounding off a thrilling long-range counter-attacking effort.
- The Pumas’ main problem was the number of times they messed up their exit from the restarts, allowing the Blue Bulls to camp in the 22 and often score points, straight after the visitors had scored.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Hanro Liebenberg, Jade Stighling (2), Dayan van der Westhuizen, Ivan van Zyl, Jano Venter. Conversions: Manie Libbok (3). Penalty: Libbok.
Pumas – Tries: Marnus Schoeman, Marko Janse van Rensburg, Neil Maritz, Morne Joubert. Conversions: Chris Smith (3). Penalty: Smith.