If Gouws Prinsloo had been more accurate with his goal-kicking, Griquas would have been far ahead after 45 minutes as the fullback missed two penalties and a conversion that would have made the score 20-6.
At that stage, the seasoned, sizeable Griquas pack just looked too physical and well-drilled for the Bulls youngsters. The visitors had dominated the scrums, brought considerable presence at the breakdown and, when the Bulls did get themselves into try-scoring opportunities, they botched those too.
Much of the Bulls’ revival was down to 23-year-old flyhalf Tian Schoeman, who kept them in the game by kicking four penalties, making the scores level at 12-12 on the hour mark. He also made several line-breaks that the Bulls only really capitalised on in the final quarter.
The resurgence began with replacement prop Dayan van der Westhuizen, who has never been given much chance at Loftus before, scoring a remarkable 40m try with his first touch in Currie Cup rugby. Lock Marvin Orie had ripped the ball clear after a lineout and then offloaded to the former Junior Springbok, and there seemed to be a lot of pent-up frustration as he roared out his celebration after dotting down in the left corner.
Schoeman then showed his stepping ability just four minutes later as he went through for a great solo try, the Bulls really turning it on in the last quarter as they snatched a bonus point that never looked likely.
Schoeman was then right up in opposite number Riaan Viljoen’s face to force a turnover inside the Griquas 22, scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, who was not as fluent as he had been against Free State, darting over from a ruck close to the line to score the third try.
The Bulls then swept upfield again and scored their bonus-point try through wing Jamba Ulengo, taking them to the top of the log.
Thinking about bonus points was the furthest thing on their minds in the first half as trip after trip into Griquas territory came to nothing as the visitors defended heroically and scored twice themselves.
Griquas’ first try came after Schoeman tried to pass out wide and wing Ruhan Nel intercepted, running 80 metres with fullback Warrick Gelant hot on his heels.
After Gelant, Ulengo and Hougaard had threatened without success, one ‘try’ being disallowed by the TMO for a marginal forward pass, Griquas scored again from a rare foray into the Bulls’ 22, left wing Ntabeni Dukisa ducking under the cover defence to score.
The two penalties Prinsloo missed either side of halftime possibly made a big difference in the outcome as the Bulls showed impressive character to weather the storm and then lift the tempo in the final quarter.
The youngsters showed that they have the character to go with the talent they clearly possess.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Dayan van der Westhuizen, Tian Schoeman, Francois Hougaard, Jamba Ulengo. Conversions: Schoeman (2). Penalties: Schoeman (4).
Griquas – Tries: Ruhan Nel, Ntabeni Dukisa. Conversion: Gouws Prinsloo.