A late try by Jesse Kriel secured a 20-14 win to the Vodacom Bulls over the Toyota Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
This report from Brenden Nel of SuperSport.com
Springbok Jesse Kriel announced his return to form a week ago for the Vodacom Bulls in their win over the Jaguares and on Saturday night he backed it up, scoring a crucial try in the 73rd minute to give his side a hard-earned 20-14 victory over the Toyota Cheetahs in their Vodacom Super Rugby game at Loftus Versfeld.
The try came as the saving grace for the Bulls management team as the team turned a ruck turnover into gold, with the counter attack manna coming from winger Jamba Ulengo, who straightened and took the half gap at the right time, before offloading to Burger Odendaal, who put Kriel away.
Kriel’s work in darting inside and flatfooting the two remaining defenders showed his class once again, and reminded the 12000-odd spectators that turned up at Loftus that despite all the mediocrity surrounding the Bulls performances this year, there is still some passion and grit left.
It gave some spark to a lacklustre game, a match punctuated more by errors and willingness to attack than by strategic play. That the Cheetahs lost this one is something they will kick themselves for.
But on the night they know all too well that neither side were close to what they need to be in this competition to attain success. If they needed reminding a simple replay of the Crusaders’ demolition in Christchurch of the Stormers will more than give them nightmares for the rest of the competition.
The Bulls may have taken a sigh of relief from the match, but they will head for their bye week now nervously looking at how they will navigate the following month where they host the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes, with a trip to Ellis Park to face the Lions sandwiched in-between.
The Cheetahs were nowhere as bad as their second half collapse against the Chiefs, but they will also find little respite in the result as they fall further behind the Bulls in their conference log, especially with performance being one of the weighted areas that SARU will use to eject two teams from the competition.
In all honesty this came down to a desperate team needing a victory facing a desperate team hoping to prove they still have a right to exist. And it didn’t make for a compelling viewing experience.
The Cheetahs scrum dominated and while the Bulls had more ball, the visitors’ attack was a lot better, even though it lacked the punch to put the Bulls away. Players such as Charles Marais, Paul Schoeman and William Small-Smith all looked exceptionally good, but the fluidity from their round two win was nowhere near.
As for the Bulls, their attack continues to be their Achilles heel. In beating 19 defenders on the evening they made the breaks when it counted, but certainly couldn’t finish off the opposition. Jason Jenkins, Hanro Liebenberg and the two wingers stood out, but their attack was too predictable, too static, and the basic errors all at the wrong time.
Things changed for the Bulls when Rudy Paige came on and their intensity went up. The Cheetahs seemed to tire somewhat and the Bulls took advantage, but it was far from comfortable for the home side.
Considering they chased the game from early on, when Tier Schoeman went over at the back of a rolling maul to score the opening try, the Bulls second half will give them hope.
Two penalties by Niel Marais to one from Tian Schoeman let the Cheetahs lead 11-3 at the break, although there was too little positive to say for the opening 40 minutes for either side.
Jacques Potgieter gave the Bulls hope when he did a clever loop around with scrumhalf Piet van Zyl to score from close range in the 54th minute, but it wasn’t long before the Bulls infringed and Marais took the score to 14-10 with 11 minutes to go.
Then came the counter and Kriel’s magic, and some superb defence at the end to keep the Cheetahs out.
It would be fair to say that determination and desperation won the day for the Bulls, but both sides’ remaining fixtures remain an uphill battle in the competition.
Vodacom Bulls – tries: Jacques Potgieter, Jesse Kriel. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (2). Penalties: Schoeman (2)
Toyota Cheetahs – tries: Paul Schoeman. Penalties: Niel Marais (3)