Bruising Bulls brewing something big after fine Sharks win

Sbu Nkosi of the Cell C Sharks and Rosko Specman of the Vodacom Bulls go for the loose ball during the Super Rugby match between Vodacom Blue Bulls and Cell C Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on March 09, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Gordon Arons/Gallo Images)

Sbu Nkosi of the Cell C Sharks and Rosko Specman of the Vodacom Bulls go for the loose ball during the Super Rugby match between Vodacom Blue Bulls and Cell C Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on March 09, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Gordon Arons/Gallo Images)

The men from Loftus once again executed their practical game-plan superbly as they move to the top of the SA conference.

Pote Human’s Bulls go into their bye next week with the satisfaction of having beaten all three other South African franchises after repelling the Sharks to win 37-14 at Loftus on Saturday evening.

It was another tactical masterclass from the home side, who executed their structured game-plan well, taking their attacking chances ruthlessly and defending superbly.

The Sharks were aimless for long periods, before they sprung to life in the second half with two tries.

However, poor discipline undermined them and they’ll have some soul-searching to do following two successive defeats.

Who was the star in this match?

The Bulls’ contingent of Springboks was once again influential. Pollard commanded well at pivot, while Duane Vermeulen was typically hard and industrious. Yet a forgotten national player was an underrated star. Trying his utmost best to silence critics, Trevor Nyakane put in a superb shift for the men from Loftus. He kept the Bulls’ scrum strong against a vaunted Springbok front row from the Sharks and upped his work rate, illustrated by nine tackles and two turnovers.

Key moments and themes

  • The Bulls’ showing in the first half was, to be honest, a masterclass. A lead of 19-0 attested to their dominance, but it was the way they achieved it that was eye-catching. There was nothing fancy about it, merely a focus on playing in the right areas of the field, keeping the Sharks on a leash and incisive attacking moments, like Jesse Kriel’s try. From a scrum, Pollard fired a long pass to the centre, who ran straight, fed to wing Cornal Hendricks, who in turn timed his return pass perfectly.
  • National coach Rassie Erasmus will be relieved that none of his Bok stalwarts picked up any injuries in what was expected to be a bruising match. Instead, the game was hard, but not played with overblown testosterone. Both sides now have a bye and that means a well-earned break for the big guns.
  • The Sharks were very disappointing in the first half. They lacked direction and certainly lost the battle of the collisions. They were much better after half-time, keeping possession well to score two tries, but were then thwarted by the Bulls’ bruising defence as they tried to force things.
  • An indication of the Bulls’ newfound composure was Rosko Specman’s first try. Having just conceded a try and struggling for possession, the hosts affected a turnover and promptly saw lock Hanro Liebenberg launch a brilliant break. Nifty hands and quick passing caught the Sharks totally off guard. It was a magnificent response to the initial setback.

Point scorers:

Bulls – Tries: Rosko Specman (2), Jesse Kriel. Conversion: Handre Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (5). Drop goal: Pollard.

Sharks – Tries: Jeremy Ward, Dan du Preez. Conversions: Robert du Preez jr (2).

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