Vodacom Bulls end on a high, with five try romp as Bulls outplay Cheetahs
The Vodacom Bulls finished their season off on a high note, sweeping aside the Toyota Cheetahs 43-17 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match played at Toyota Park in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The match was a simple formality after the Cell C Sharks claimed the last remaining qualifying spot for next weekend’s playoff rounds, but it didn’t deter the Bulls from going all out to complete a reasonably successful debut season under coach Nollis Marais.
In the end it was a lack of bonus points in earlier game, and a poor performance in Buenos Aires to lose to the Jaguares a fortnight ago, that cost them the spot as they finished one point behind the Sharks on the final log.
Still, considering the way the season has gone and the challenges the team has faced, the final victory will give them a lot of confidence going into the Nashua Currie Cup in the next month as they will play the majority of the young team together for the rest of the year before having another crack at Super Rugby.
On the night they were simply too street-smart and too clinical for an ill-disciplined Cheetahs side who struggled to match the physicality of the Bulls pack, and made too many mistakes that were punished in the process.
In the cold light of day, two statistics will stand out for the Cheetahs in the negative column that basically describe how they lost the game. Thirteen penalties conceded and 19 turnovers given away are statistics that hardly ever find themselves in the winning team’s column and underline why the Cheetahs were never in the game.
The Bulls loose forwards in particular revelled in the amount of ball they got, stood firm in defence and were excellent when given their chances.
While Namibian captain Renaldo Bothma scored a brace to take the man of the match award, the performances of Lappies Labuschagne in his last game, upstart Jannes Kirsten and later on Arno Botha all stood out.
Lock Jason Jenkins also gave a stellar performance while Jesse Kriel’s second game back at fullback was inspirational again, and the Springbok was a rock in the last line of defence.
The Cheetahs will look hard for positives, but two players deserve plaudits for their performances, with no8 Paul Schoeman standing out in the carnage and winger Sergeal Petersen still class among his peers on the night.
While the Cheetahs enjoyed some good early play they found little reward for their efforts, with Tian Schoeman’s boot setting the Bulls up for an early 6-0 lead.
Then in the 25th minute the Bulls took control, as a clinical first phase attack was sent wide with speed, with all the backline players running onto the ball with pace, and ending when winger Travis Ismaiel powered his way over two players in the corner for an excellent finish and the first try of the game.
Four minutes later they drove their point home when from another lineout move, Bothma was put into a gap and ran through with ease to score the first of his brace and send his team into the break 18-3 up.
The Bulls added a penalty early on in the second half to stretch their lead before the Cheetahs found some life finally in the game, with Clayton Blommetjies running onto a ball from close range to go over and put his team into double figures.
But then the Bulls juggernaut got rolling, and an error by Clayton Blommetjies, being caught by Travis Ismaiel on his own line as he tried to dance his way out of trouble, put the Bulls further ahead as Bothma arrived at the breakdown, picked up the ball and went over.
Ismaiel added his second a few minutes later by finishing off a backline move with a lovely inside jink to basically seal the game for the Bulls.
Carl Wegner clawed one back late in the game for the home side, but the rout was completed when Tian Meyer tried to clear, but sent the ball straight into Jamba Ulengo’s belly, and the winger simply ran it in for the final try of the night and a great finish to the season for his team.
Toyota Cheetahs – tries: Clayton Blommetjies, Carl Wegner. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (2). Penalty: Zeilinga.
Vodacom Bulls – tries: Renaldo Bothma (2), Travis Ismaiel (2), Jamba Ulengo. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3). Penalties: Schoeman (4)