Two tries from Bryan Habana helped the Blue Bulls to a 36-24 win over the Free State Cheetahs in the Currie Cup Final on Saturday.
Two tries from departing wing Bryan Habana helped the Blue Bulls to a 36-24 win over Free State Cheetahs in the Currie Cup Final at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
A 21-point blitz in the opening quarter from the home side meant the Cheetahs were forced to play catch-up for the rest of the game.
And in his last game for the Bulls before leaving for Western Province, Habana used his pace to dot down twice to give the Loftus faithful the perfect going-away gift.
The Cheetahs fought valiantly but in the end it was their discipline, which has been their strength this season, that let them down when it mattered most.
Four penalties and a drop from home fly-half MornÃ© Steyn made sure the Cheetahs were punished for the slightest mistake.
Unfortunately a brilliant atmosphere was ruined at the final whistle as fisticuffs broke out.
The Bulls got off to a flier as Francois Hougaard crossed the whitewash after just four minutes thanks to a pin-point cross field kick from Fourie du Preez.
The lead was doubled by the quarter-hour mark as Du Preez and Habana linked up down the left touchline to break clear and put the Cape Town-bound man in for five points. There was more than of hint of a forward pass as Du Preez fed Habana, but it wouldn't have made much difference. Of course metronome Steyn added the extras.
The Loftus faithful didn't have to wait long for Habana to score again as he picked up Du Preez's kick ahead and dived into the corner. Steyn slotted a brilliant conversion and the Bulls led 21-0 after just 20 minutes.
Steyn added a penalty five minutes later and the Cheetahs looked down and out.
But you should never, ever, write the Cheetahs off and most of the rest of the half would belong to the visitors. With the Cheetahs camped on the opposition tryline for extended periods it was matter of time before the pressure turned to points.
First flank Frans Viljoen crashed over from close range and then Corne Uys did the same in the corner with half time looming. After missing an easy penalty earlier on, Jacques-Louis Potgieter found his kicking boots to convert both tries and the Cheetahs were back in the game at 24-14.
The home side would have the last laugh of the half however as sharpshooter Steyn slotted an opportunistic drop-goal as the hooter sounded.
Steyn was on song after the break with another penalty but the momentum had swung the Cheetahs way. Nico Breedt found his way into the corner before Potgieter slotted a drop to make the score 30-24.
With chants of “Cheetahs -Cheetahs” ringing out in the crowd, and the visitors providing most of the positive rugby, the Bulls knew they had a game on their hands.
Another Steyn penalty gave the Bulls a bit of breathing space.
When Cheetahs replacement hooker Richardt Strauss tried to give Francois Hougaard a 'wedgie' off the ball, Steyn could increase the lead to twelve points with his fourth penalty.
The Cheetahs plied the pressure in the closing minutes but a well organised Bulls defence stood firm.
With tempers boiling over, Strauss was given his marching orders for giving ref Jonathan Kaplan too much lip. A man down at the death, the Cheetahs still kept the pressure on, but ran out of time to close the gap.
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Hougaard, Habana 2
Cons: Steyn 3
Pens: Steyn 4
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Viljoen, Uys, Breedt
Cons: Potgieter 3
Yellow card: R. Strauss (Cheetahs – 75th min – dissent)
Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 MornÃ© Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Derick KuÃ¼n, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Corne Uys, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 JP Joubert, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Frans Viljoen, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Nico Breedt, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Izak van der Westhuizen, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Louis Strydom, 22 Fabian Juries.
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant referees: Pro Legoete, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Shaun Veldsman