The Bulls and the Sharks joined the Jaguares as the quarterfinal representatives from the SA Conference in the 2019 Super Rugby competition, achieving it with different styles of play and a marked difference in the quality of their performances.
The Bulls will play the Hurricanes in Wellington next weekend after beating the Lions 48-27 while the Sharks will have to face Brumbies after scoring the winner after the hooter when they beat the Stormers 12-6.
A tight error-strewn game that was only kept alive by the tense must-win battle at Newlands was followed by a preparedness to run by both sides at Loftus that brought nine tries, seven of them by the Bulls.
Scintillating rugby by Bulls and Lions
The Bulls reacted within three minutes after the Lions had scored the quickest try of the Super Rugby season when Hacjivah Dayimani dotted down after just 15 seconds to score the first of their two tries. The Bulls scored four tries before halftime to take a 31-19 lead into halftime and win the match convincingly with fine rugby and seven tries.
The Lions added another try in the first half but took every opportunity to kick penalties. Their aim was to secure a bonus point to qualify in the eighth position and it looked a good ploy when they played more positively and crept up to 27-31.
Then the Bulls cut loose again. A brilliant try by Cornal Hendriks following some good handling and options and then two outstanding bodies swerves by the winger, followed by another try by Pollard took the score to 43-27 before Pollard sent Manie Libbok over to take the final score to 48-27.
Yes, we do have skills and a willingness to run in South African rugby!
Bulls (31) 47: Tries: Hanro Liebenberg (2), Lizo Gqoboka, Burger Odendaal, Cornal Hendriks, Handré Pollard, Manie Libbok. Conversions: Pollard (5). Penalty: Pollard.
Lions (19) 27: Tries Hacjivah Dayimani, Cyle Brink. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (4). Drop goal: Andries Viljoen.
The Newlands Yawn
The match at Newlands was the opposite. It was tense, with mostly tentative, poor rugby played by both sides. The lasting memory is the many handling errors, the many injuries during the match which created further stoppages, and poor option-taking by two sides that between them had 18 Springboks in their squads.
It was forgettable with the fixture’s most positive aspect probably the free entry to many spectators.
The Sharks came out on top 12-9 through a try well after the final hooter following their best effort of the day when they kept control to go through many phases and covered about 40 meters in the effort for Lukhanyo Am to score the winner.
The Sharks elation in securing a qualification spot will be tempered by the poor quality of rugby they played against a team bereft of some of their very best players. The Stormers loss was their only one at home this season and full marks for their fill-in players who tried hard but were further challenged by injuries to two of their forwards during the first half.
The Sharks dominated early on and had the better of the battles. However, poor options and handling cost them dearly throughout, with the first 12 minutes or so a perfect example when they dominated to the extent that the Stormers had to make 62 tackles in that time and still kept the Sharks scoreless.
On this performance the Sharks cannot be too confident for their quarterfinal against the Brumbies in next week.
Stormers (6) 9 – Penalties: Josh Stander (2), Jean-Luc du Plessis.
Sharks (5) 12: Tries: Rhyno Smith, Lukhanyo Am. Conversion: Rob du Preez.