Hat-tricks by outside centre Burger Odendaal and fullback Warrick Gelant allowed the Vodacom Blue Bulls the space to trample the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 64-36 (halftime 26-22) in their Currie Cup match at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Friday evening.
The first half was littered with running rugby that saw seven tries scored as a perfect Spring evening allowed both teams the opportunity to run.
The Blue Bulls had the bulk of the possession in the opening 20 minutes as they ran the home team ragged with Free State being exposed on defence.
Scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl drew first blood in the 10th minute as the nippy halfback caught Free State’s defence napping with a quick tap which allowed him to score a soft try.
Odendaal followed up with a great try in the corner which gave the visitors a 12 point cushion.
Free State were next to cross the whitewash despite losing captain and flank Chris Dry to a yellow card for repeated team infringements in the 18th minute.
Their opening try came courtesy of forgotten Junior Springbok and inside centre Lloyd Greef who ran a sublime line to score a converted try.
Free State struggled to contain the blue juggernaut as Odendaal scored his brace in the same corner as his first with 19 minutes left on the clock.
Free State flyhalf Robbie Petzer pulled back three points via his boot but it did little to stem the Blue Bulls’ attacking intent as Gelant scored their bonus point try in the 33rd minute.
A player who warms the bench generally provides much needed impact once he gets on the field and that is exactly what happened as replacement flank Daniel Maartens brought his team back into the match with two tries.
Maartens, a former Varsity Cup winner with UFS-Shimlas, proved his weight in gold as he was on hand to receive an inside pass that put him in space to canter over the tryline while he scored his second try two minutes after the hooter from a dominant lineout drive.
Petzer’s missed conversion brought an end to the first half with the Blue Bulls holding a slender 26-22 lead.
The men from Pretoria kept their foot on the pedal after the break as Odendaal got his hat-trick two minutes after the restart.
The visitors have improved dramatically on attack as the Currie Cup has progressed this year but their defence has seen them lose any advantage over a team. This was highlighted in the 49th minute as Maartens got his hat-trick after another dominant lineout drive.
Gelant, who is knocking loudly on the Springbok door, showed why he is destined for higher honours shortly after Maartens’ effort as the elusive fullback put in a deft kick for wing Duncan Matthews to chase and score.
The visitors were in sensational form as the second half progressed with replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar and Blitzbok cum flank Tim Agaba dotting down.
Free State pulled a try back through replacement utility back Stephan Janse van Rensburg but it was a case of a little too late as Gelant secured his hat-trick with tries in the 75th and 78th minute.
Replacement utility back Tony Jantjies conversion of Gelant’s try proved to be the final nail in the coffin as the Blue Bulks ended the match with a 64-36 away win to keep their semifinal hopes alive.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Lloyd Greef, Daniel Maartens (3), Stephan Janse van Rensburg; Cons: Robbie Petzer (3), JP Smith; Pen: Robbie Petzer.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Ivan van Zyl, Burger Odendaal (3), Warrick Gelant (3), Duncan Matthews, Johan Grobbelaar, Tim Agaba; Cons: Marnitz Boshoff (6), Tony Jantjies.