Bulls sizzle, then fizzle, but do enough to win Unlocked competition

The Bulls were crowned Super Rugby Unlocked champions on Saturday after beating the Pumas in their final match of the competition. Picture: Getty Images

There will be great relief in Pretoria and a sense of justification that the appointment of Jake White as director of rugby has borne immediate fruit.

The Bulls fired on all cylinders for probably just the first 25 minutes, but it was enough for them to beat the Pumas 21-5 and clinch some more, long-awaited silverware for their Loftus Versfeld trophy cabinet as they won the Super Rugby Unlocked competition by four points over the Stormers and Sharks.

In what is probably the last ever Super Rugby tournament, it was perhaps fitting that the Bulls, as the only South African winners of the competition, signed off as the winners of this strictly local event.

But it is also the first senior trophy to find a home at Loftus Versfeld since their 2010 Super Rugby triumph, so there will be great relief in Pretoria and a sense of justification that the appointment of Jake White as director of rugby has indeed borne immediate fruit.

Jake White

Bulls director of rugby, Jake White. Picture: Getty Images

The Bulls raced into a 21-0 lead inside those first 25 minutes, playing clinical rugby. Their superb pack was once again utterly dominant; they squeezed the Pumas in all the set-pieces, their driving maul was well-used and their ball-in-hand play was direct and incisive.

And the Bulls’ breakdown work was hugely impressive, with flank Marco van Staden absolutely rampant and eighthman Duane Vermeulen not far behind.

Wing Kurt-Lee Arendse opened the scoring in the 11th minute from close range after one of numerous penalties had been kicked to touch five metres out; six minutes later flyhalf Chris Smith rounded off a period of very direct running by the Bulls as he forced his way through three tackles to score; and scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl then sniped through a gap to score after a big scrum by the Bulls had earned a penalty against the Pumas on their own ball.

Ivan van Zyl

Scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl goes over the tryline for one of the Bulls’ tries in their Super Rugby Unlocked match against the Pumas at Loftus on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

The marvellous rugby of the first half gave way to a scrappier, but more intensely competitive second half as the Pumas showed pleasing improvement. They stopped conceding a flood of penalties, they were better in the set-pieces, made fewer mistakes and, were it not for some lapses in decision-making at crucial times, they could have pushed hard for the win given how they turned around the territory and possession stats.

They showed their intent from the start of the second half, hooker HP van Schoor muscling over for a try from a lineout drive.

Given how brave the Pumas have been in fronting up for this game after 11 of their squad have been in quarantine for the last week, it was pleasing that they ended this phase of the season with their heads held high.

Also coming out of the match with great credit was referee Aimee Barrett-Theron, who became the first woman to referee at senior professional level in South Africa, and officiated with confidence, certainly being the mistress in charge out on the field.

Scorers

Bulls: 

Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Chris Smith, Ivan van Zyl, Conversions: Smith (3).

Pumas:

Try: HP van Schoor.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.





today in print