It isn’t the Six nations Championship, but Saturday was a mini Grand Slam day for the Bulls as they beat the last of their three SA derby opponents, the Sharks, 37-14 in their Super Rugby game at Loftus on Saturday.
At Ellis Park the shuffled Lions team easily beat the visiting Jaguares 47-39 in a poor match where both sides missed their tackles, handled poorly and had to rely on the other side’s defensive and handling frailties to run in most of the total of 13 tries.
♦ But back to the Bulls: they dominated the tight phases, scrummed very well and did some basics often neglected in South Africa outstandingly well.
The backs ran straight, the halfbacks used the ball effectively and often took it wide, and Handré Pollard played the mature territorial game that they set out to do.
There was not a single driving maul from the Bulls on the Sharks tryline following penalties. Instead Pollard kept the scoreboard rolling with his 22 points which consisted of a drop kick, five penalties and two conversions with only one miss from the kicking tee.
He again covered and tackled in a polished display and one must hope that he does not get injured before the World Cup.
Jesse Kriel on attack, Rosko Specman’s finishing and work-rate, the exciting fullback play of Warrick Gelant (photo GB Jordaan) who used clever kicks to get his side on attack and also did some impressive stepping, the pinpoint kicking from scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl, Dylan Sages’ work on defence and his straight running, the work-rate and speed of Cornal Hendricks and the forwards who played as a pack make this a game for the Bulls to be proud of.
On Sharks side, there was an overawed-at-the-Bulls first half and they were cleaned out to the tune of 19-0 at halftime. Their second half was much better, but there is something lacking in that they can’t get a good backline going.
Don’t blame the halfbacks. The fault was up front, where they were outplayed, despite a much better second half with Akker van der Merwe outstanding and Dan du Preez playing a solid all-round game.
Bulls (19) 37: Tries: Jesse Kriel, Rosko Specman (2). Conversions: Handré Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (5). Drop goal: Pollard.
Sharks (0) 14: Tries: Jeremy Ward, Dan du Preez. Conversions: Rob du Preez (2).
Lions 47 (26) Jaguares (13) 39
The Lions scored seven tries and let the Jaguares in for seven in a match resembling a netball game with poor passing and catching. They won, mostly dominated, every facet except the mauls and conceded more turnovers than the Argentinians and absolutely dominated he scrums.
They ran more, further and beat more defenders, they made ten clean breaks to three, and still came away without a bonus point. (In Super Rugby it is required that a side must score three tries more than its opponents.)
All the above points to total dominance, but too many handling errors, poor options and often uncertainty in the passing and general loss of possession when it mattered made this a forgettable clash.
Still not the complete product, Wandile Simelane was good on attack and was man of the match, and in general Swys de Bruin has the nucleus of what can become a very good side.
But on Saturday there were simply too much that still needs plenty of work and it is unlikely to be rectified in the short term.
Lions (26) 47: Tries: Rhyno Herbst, Elton Jantjies, Kwagga Smith, Wandisile Simelane, Marnus Schoeman, Courtnall Skosan (2). Conversion: Jantjies (6).
Jaguares (13) 39: Tries: Ramiro Moyano, Julian Montoya (2), Gaspar Baldunciel, Matias Moroni, Joaquín Tuculet. Conversions: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Juan Cruz Mallia (2). Penalty: Diaz Bonilla.