The Vodacom Blue Bulls made the perfect start to their Top 8 campaign when they beat the dangerous Cheetahs 26-16 at Securicor Loftus on Saturday.
The foundation for the Blue Bulls’ performance was laid by the pressure they exerted on the visitors from the word go. After two disappointing weeks, the urgency was back in the home side’s play and they often caught the Cheetahs behind the advantage line. It was clear that the Blue Bulls did their homework, because the Cheetahs’ wingers were constantly placed under pressure by hanging kicks.
After Morne Steyn opened the Blue Bulls’ account with a penalty, the Cheetahs took the lead through a try by Ollie le Roux. Le Roux had a lot to say about the Blue Bulls before the match, especially Richard Bands with some of his remarks, but this try was the only influence he had on the match. He was sent from the field in the first half with a yellow card after diving into the ruck and in the second half he received red for a punch on Johan Wasserman.
The Blue Bulls won back the lead through Steyn’s boot and the flyhalf also scored his side’s first try shortly before the break. The conversion made the half time score 13-5. The usually reliable Willem de Waal experienced a disappointing day with the boot and the score could easily have been different.
In the second half the Blue Bulls started taking control, especially when they played the last half hour against fourteen players. Wynand Olivier scored a brilliant try after De Waal could not master a kick. The blonde centre scooped up the ball to score the try that dashed the Free Staters’ hopes.
The Cheetahs, to their credit, never gave up and after continuous phase play, Trompie Nontshinga rounded off a good movement to bring the score to 23-13.
The Blue Bulls, however, defended manfully to clinch the victory and both sides could only manage a penalty in the last 20 minutes.