The Cell C Sharks produced a mature, powerful performance to book themselves a home Currie Cup final next weekend with a 37-27 win over the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Durban on Saturday, reports SuperSport.co.za.
Backed by a flawless 17-point kicking performance by Curwin Bosch as well as a powerful setpiece and some impressive forward play, the Sharks proved why they are the form team in the competition this year and pressurised the young Bulls side into too many mistakes when it mattered.
The Bulls played bravely as they have all season on the back of the new culture under John Mitchell. But in the end their mistakes were their own undoing as they handed the Sharks a lead and proceeded to play catch-up for the rest of the game, something that eventually proved way too tough.
The Sharks pack took control and looked dangerous for large parts of the game, with their front row impressive while lock Ruan Botha had a monster game. At the back Lukhanyo Am must have pressed his Springbok aspirations forward a great deal as well.
The Bulls were once again led by the impressive Warrick Gelant, who really deserves a look at international honours while up front the likes of Pierre Schoeman, Edgar Marutlule and Marco van Staden tried valiantly but were never a match as a unit for the home side.
Scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl’s hopes of repeating his heroics of a year ago when he scored the winner against Western Province to put the Bulls in the final were thwarted as two mistakes he made led to tries. The young halfback managed a try of his own after the halftime break to lessen the blow, but will learn from the experience.
The Bulls were stunned early on when their defensive system creaked twice in the first 10 minutes – first for Am to go over almost untouched as the defensive line went inward and left the midfielder all alone on the outside. It happened again a few minutes later when a pre-planned Sharks move worked to perfection when Kobus van Wyk ghosted through the middle from an inside pass to score.
But despite it all, the Bulls fought back bravely, first when Schoeman powered his way over from close range to get his side on the board and then when Marnitz Boshoff reduced the lead to a single point with two excellent penalty shots to make a game of it.
Then, the crucial 10 minutes before the break turned into a nightmare for the Bulls, and pure gold for the Sharks as two mistakes put the home team firmly in control at the break.
After Franco Marais’s try was disallowed as the Bulls lineout faltered and the ball was knocked out of Ruben van Heerden’s hand, the ensuing scrum saw the Bulls pack in trouble, and Van Zyl’s pressured pass missed JT Jackson and landed perfectly for Louis Schreuder to simply collect and score.
Eight minutes later, as the Bulls were on the halfway line, Van Zyl’s attempted box kick was charged down by Botha, with the big lock collecting and running through to score.
It took the score from 14-13 to 28-13 at the break, and left the Bulls with a mountain to climb.
That mountain started well for the visitors in the second half as Van Staden ripped the ball from Dan du Preez at the kickoff, and the turnover saw Van Zyl make some amends as he ran in the try from the counter-attack to bring the Bulls within eight points.
Bosch hit another penalty to stretch the lead before Burger Odendaal found enough space after a period of pressure to bring the Bulls within four points.
But just as the comeback was gaining momentum, Bosch hit the perfect drop to relieve the pressure for the home side and followed it up with a penalty to stretch the lead to 10 points.
The Bulls tried hard to come back but in the end the experience and pressure exerted by the home side was too much for the young team, and Robert du Preez’s team moved a week closer to achieving their dream of a Currie Cup title.
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Lukhanyo Am, Kobus van Wyk, Louis Schreuder, Ruan Botha. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (4). Penalties: Bosch (2). Drop goal: Bosch.
Vodacom Bulls – Tries: Pierre Schoeman, Ivan van Zyl, Burger Odendaal. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (3). Penalties: Boshoff (2).