The Vodacom Bulls finished their Vodacom Super Rugby season with a solid 40-7 win over the Melbourne Rebels at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
Flattering as the final score may seem, the Bulls hardly played like a team that would have been considered a threat had they made it to the play-offs.
A second half brace by lock Paul Willemse, who spent 10 minutes in the bin during the first half for dangerously clearing his opposition number at a ruck, and a try by winger Francois Hougaard, who kept his best performance for the last game of the season, proved to be the difference at the end, reports SARugby.com.
Dean Greyling also dived over once the Rebels had run out of gas, but on this occasion the bonus point only ensures that the Stormers can’t overtake them in the South African conference.
In a lacklustre first half performance Frans Ludeke’s men struggled to gain any sort of momentum as the visitors dictated proceedings thanks to an enterprising approach to play.
They were good at retaining possession from first phase and looked dangerous with ball in hand.
Had Rebels flyhalf Jack Debreczeni been more accurate with the boot in the opening quarter, his side could very well have had a buffer that would have come in handy in the closing exchanges of the match.
Add to that the fact that they squandered at least three try scoring opportunities in the first 40 minutes and it becomes clearer why they have yet to win a match on South African soil.
The lesson the visitors will take from this outing is that the ball handling skills of their forwards needs drastic improvement as their props put down passes at the most crucial of times.
For the Bulls Handre Pollard again highlighted why at 20-years of age he already has a Springbok cap to his name. The pivot was the only man to contribute to his team’s first half score.
To their credit, the Rebels did exceptionally well in stopping the Bulls rolling maul and scored a brilliantly worked try of their own to take the lead for all of two minutes.
The try came during the time Willemse was in the bin and was scored by Debreczeni who clearly left his goal-kicking boots in the Australian state of Victoria.
Ironically that five-pointer was made possible by a solid off-load by prop Laurie Weeks who had linked up with loose-head Toby Smith.
Leading 7-6 the Rebels coughed up three points when VodacomBulls fullback Jurgen Visser was obstructed as he tried to take down Jason Woodward who spent most of the night fielding high balls.
Pollard kicked two more penalties before the break to give his side a 12-7 lead, which could have been more had the his side been able to capitalise on the one-man advantage they had from the 30th minute when Rebels skipper Scott Funglistaller saw yellow for his side’s repeated infringements at the breakdown.
The 9500 strong crowd had to wait for the second stanza before they really had anything to cheer about and most of their chants can be attributed to the blinder Hougaard had playing away from the ball.
Also, at a time where the Springboks are in desperate looking for a scrumhalf for the upcoming Rugby Championships, Piet van Zyl put in a performance that would have been noticed by the selectors.
A splendid pass by Van Zyl put Willemse over the line.
In the greater scope of things the Bulls will reflect on this season as one where they came-up well short of the line and part of the reason for this lies in the fact that after specialist open-sider Deon Stegmann succumbed to injury, they were found wanting in the most important area of the game.
Bulls - Tries: Paul Willemse(2), Francois Hougaard, Dean Greyling. Conversions: Handre Pollard (3), Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Penalties: Handre Pollard (4) .
Rebels - Try: Jack Debreczeni. Conversion: Jack Debreczeni.