Orlando Stadium once again proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Vodacom Bulls who lifted the inaugural Gauteng Rugby Cup after beating the MTN Lions 38 – 32 this afternoon.
An action-packed day in the heart of Soweto in blistering heat was peppered with moments of nostalgia and reminiscing, sheer excitement and anticipation as the three times Vodacom Super Rugby champions made a welcome return to Orlando Stadium. Celebration was the order of the day as the Blue Bulls Rugby Union (BBRU) officially kicked off its 75th Anniversary by paying tribute to its past and present players while extending gratitude and appreciation to their loyal fans.
Despite missing several stalwarts due to injury, the Vodacom Bulls showed no signs of rustiness in their opening pre-season match. Deon Stegmann's team dished out a good performance against their old foes, who went into this encounter on the back of two impressive victories against Russia and the Toyota Cheetahs respectively.
The Vodacom Bulls started off well and led 22-17 at halftime, but the MTN Lions came back strongly in the second half to cut the deficit. The lead exchange hands before the Vodacom Bulls took charge of proceedings thanks to a Jurgen Visser try late on. The match concluded with the visitors snatching a late try but failed to convert, resulting in the Vodacom Bulls being crowned the 2013 Gauteng Rugby Cup champions. The Gauteng Rugby Cup forms part of the Gauteng Sports Challenge, hosted by the Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation in conjunction with Ultimate Sporting Concepts.
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke was pleased the result but says they have to finetune their work in defence and lineouts ahead of their next match.
"It's not ideal to start the season missing so many of our key players due to injury, but I'm pleased with the performances of my players today. They stepped up, showed hunger and desire which will likely give me some good headaches in terms of selections for our opening Vodacom Super Rugby match on 22 February."
Vodacom Bulls flanker and captain for the Gauteng Rugby Cup Deon Stegmann says the team is fitter, stronger and more determined than ever.
"It's always an amazing experience for the team to play in Soweto. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves here in 2010 and managed to give our fans exactly what they wanted today. Although we missed several of our more experienced players, this result sets the tone for what we plan to achieve in 2013."
Fans were treated to pre-match entertainment catering for the entire family, the Vodacom Bulls Babes strutting their stuff on the pitch and a curtain-raiser featuring the Police Rugby Club against the Roodepoort Rugby Club.
Blue Bulls Company CEO Barend Van Graan was all smiles after Saturday's festivities at Orlando Stadium.
"Once again we've been absolutely blown away by the support of the Soweto community. It's no secret we love playing at Orlando Stadium, perhaps best reflected on the scoreboard. A victory was the perfect way to officially launch our 75th Anniversary celebrations."
The Vodacom Bulls will travel to Polokwane for their second and final pre-season match against the Toyota Cheetahs at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on 9 February. Kickoff is at 5pm. Tickets are on sale at Computicket outlets countrywide, via telephonic bookings at 0861 915 8000 or by booking online at www.computicket.com. Tickets cost R60 (behind the poles), R80 for an Open Stand ticket or R100 for a Grand Stand ticket. There are also R20 tickets for learners for seats behind the poles. Parking tickets cost R20 and can also be purchased from Computicket. For more information, go to www.thebulls.co.za.
Vodcom Bulls:Tries: Jan Serfontein, Jurgen Visser 2, Grant Hattingh. Conversions: Tiaan Schoeman (2), Handre Pollard. Penalties: Schoeman (3), Pollard.
MTN Lions: Tries: Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel (2), Anthony Volmink. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (3). Penalty: Boshoff. Drop goal: Boshoff.