The Bulls produced a workman-like performance without any frills to edge the Griquas 30-23 in a Super Rugby Unlocked match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.
There were no thrills, but plenty of spills in the showing by coach Jake White’s team who hit the lead for the first time in only the 63rd minute. Despite a poor opening 60 minutes they finished strongly and probably just deserved the win, but there wasn’t much to enthuse about and they looked a far cry from the side that entertained so richly on Super Fan Saturday two weeks ago.
The Griquas players, despite the defeat, will be pleased with their performance and there was enough in their showing to ensure the other teams in South Africa’s new domestic competition will take them very seriously over the coming weeks.
The home team were frustrated in an indifferent first half; nothing they tried worked and they found themselves running into brick walls for much of the opening 40 minutes.
Griquas by contrast looked a confident bunch and they quickly found they had the upperhand at the breakdowns, which ensured they got onto the front foot, while the Bulls were unable to apply any pressure on the visitors.
The men from Kimberley also tackled well and it wasn’t until late in the first half that the Bulls found a way through, with lock Ruan Nortje scoring a try after the 40 minutes were up. It came after Griquas had coughed up possession at a scrum when, had they won the set-piece, they would have probably kicked into touch and gone into the break 10-3 up.
As it was it was 10-all at the interval, after Griquas had scored a wonderful try through journeyman wing James Verity-Amm in a half of rugby that would have had Bulls fans wide-eyed and panicked and Griquas fans beaming with pride.
And the Griquas’ joy got better after the restart when fullback Anthony Volmink read the play well to snaffle a push-back into the field by David Kriel, following a cross-field kick from Morne Steyn, to run in a try from 50 metres out. And when George Whitehead slotted a penalty in the 50th minute it looked like a huge shock was on the cards.
Whitehead though soon found himself in the sin-bin and with the Bulls’ scrum finally working properly the home team got on top and made it count. They won a penalty try in the 56th minute and then moments after Steyn slotted a penalty, captain Arno Botha went in for a converted try.
The drama though was far from over. Verity-Amm got his second try in the 71st minute to make it a four-point game, but a Steyn penalty with a few minutes to go gave the Bulls a seven-point lead, and they hung on for the victory.
Bulls: Tries: Nortje, Penalty try, Botha; Conversions: Steyn (2); Penalties: Steyn (3)
Griquas: Tries: Verity-Amm (2), Volmink; Conversion: Whitehead; Penalties: Whitehead (2)