The Vodacom Bulls confounded most pundits opinions by blunting the Cell C Sharks at a wet and sparsely populated Johnson Kings Park in Durban in their Super Rugby 2018 match.
Super Rugby 2018: Vodacom Bulls Defeat Cell C Sharks in Durban
This was the only match that the South African franchises were involved in this weekend, with the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers both having a bye. The Lions will be away to the Waratahs next weekend, with the Stormers visiting the Sharks.
Cell C Sharks 10 Vodacom Bulls 40
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Warrick Gelant 3, Adriaan Strauss and Johnny Kotze Penalty try Conversions: Handre Pollard 3 and Manie Libbok
Cell C Sharks – Try: Andre Esterhuizen Conversion: Robert du Preez Penalty: Robert du Preez
The Sharks scrum was hit by the late withdrawal of Springbok Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira due to a groin injury, while the Bulls welcomed back first choice locks RG Snyman and Lood de Jager.
Most pundits were predicting a win for the Sharks by at least ten points. They looked strong on the New Zealand leg of their Australasian tour and were hosting a young team on a losing streak.
Bulls 24 minute blitz
When Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez got the scoreboard moving in the second minute with a penalty, it appeared as if the pundits had it right. What followed though was a try scoring blitz from the Bulls that saw them build a lead of 21 to 3.
Their first try saw fullback Warrick Gelant latch onto a chip ahead from Handre Pollard. The score was contentious, as the try was referred to the TMO for review as it was possible that Gelant was ahead of the kicker. The on field decision was a try. With no in line camera angels and Gelant being partially off screen in some of the better footage, the TMO had no option other than to stick with the on field decision.
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Minutes later, a Sharks line out was overthrown in the Bulls 22. The ball was shifted through the hands and Gelant chipped over the defense to collect and score again.
The third try came from their familiar driving maul off a line out, with hooker Adriaan Strauss being the beneficiary.
Superior kicking game
The Bulls won the kicking contest. Pollard was consistent out of hand and a general use of grubber and chip kicks to get in behind the Sharks defense.
The Sharks eventually crossed the Bulls line in the 38th minute. Andre Esterhuizen continues to put his hand up for higher honours. His try was based on the use of his brute strength to push the Bulls defense over their own tryline.
At half time, the Bulls were holding a handy lead of 21 points to 10.
It took six minutes of the second half for the Bulls to be awarded a fourth try. This time it was via the penalty try route after repeated infringements by the Sharks within meters of their line. Sharks tighthead prop Thomas du Toit took one for the team and spent ten minutes in the sin bin.
Poor patch of play
After that score and an additional rain shower, the general quality of play degenerated into an error fest by both teams. The Sharks were most guilty, with their handling letting them down at critical stages when trying to chase the game. It was Gelant who set the game alight again in the 77th minute. He again chip kicked over the Sharks defense to collect and score to record his hat trick of tries.
The Sharks were probably unfortunate to concede yet another try in the final minute. Turnover ball on their own try line saw wing Johnny Kotze dive over in the corner to put the finishing touches on the game.
The Sharks will be very unhappy with their performance. Their intensity did not match that of their previous two games. The Bulls on the other hand will be grinning from ear to ear. They were regarded as the under dogs, but outplayed their more fancied opponents both on attack and defense. They did this based on keeping the ball in hand and not allowing the Sharks any significant time with ball in hand.
The Sharks will host the Stormers next weekend, with the Bulls hosting the Rebels who suffered a surprise loss at home to the Jaguares.
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