Planet Rugby

Bulls edge Cheetahs in Loftus thriller

11th February 2007 16:30

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fourie du preez

Fourie du Preez: Strong like a Bull

The Bulls held on in the face of a fierce late two-try charge to edge the Cheetahs 24-20 in their Super 14 Round Two match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

The Bulls outscored the Cheetahs by three tries to two, but the Cheetahs' touchdowns both came in the final 11 minutes.

It was a physical South Africa derby encounter that was a repeat of the thrilling Currie Cup Final in 2006.

That game ended in a draw and the teams were left sharing the trophy. It came as no surprise then that both sides had a score to settle, and the Super 14 battle at Loftus Versfeld was the place to do it.

Bulls and Cheetahs fans made sure there wasn't an empty seat in the stadium, and the players made sure they didn't disappoint their supporters.

The game also saw three tries being scored by as many props - always a wonderful sight to see, especially when one of them runs 45 meters downfield to score one of them!

The match was certainly a game of two halves - the first half living up to the pre-match hype as a tight encounter and the second opening up with four fantastic tries being scored.

As far as dominance in the two halves were concerned - the Cheetahs stole the show for the majority of the first half, shutting the Bulls out with tremendous tackles and using their backline to good effect.

Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus would have been pleased with the way the game was going as his side enjoyed the majority of the possession.

Perhaps the visitors could have turned a bit more of their possession into points as Cheetahs skipper Juan Smith opted on more than one occasion to go for a try when the three points were staring his side in the face.

In a tight encounter like this one, it is paramount that a side takes the points when they get given them...especially when there is only six points separating the two teams.

However, with the way the Cheetahs were dominating all facets of play in the middle of the field, perhaps Smith thought they could do the same when they were closer to the Bulls line. He was wrong.

Though it wasn't the best reflection of the half, the Bulls managed a touchdown in the dying minutes to take a 7-6 lead into the break.

The late try, it seems, certainly helped take the momentum with them into the second half.

All the Cheetahs hard work in the scrums and getting to the breakdowns quicker than their opponents, seemed to evaporate as the Bulls' game-pan finally started to take effect.

With Bulls scrum-half Fourie du Preez and fly-half Morne Steyn showing off their instrumental kicking abilities, the Cheetahs were always put on the backfoot.

The line-outs turned to be a miserable state of affairs for the men from Bloemfontein, and even Rassie Erasmus's famous disco lights couldn't save his team from losing ball after ball.

But the Cheetahs never gave up and were on hand to cause yet another incredible comeback like they have done so many times before against their highveld rivals, with just four points separating the two teams at the end of a thrilling encounter.

Springbok Meyer Bosman got the Cheetahs off to the start they were looking for when he managed to make amends for an earlier miss at goal.

Bosman was on hand to extend that lead just minutes later after Bulls new signing Wikus Van Heerdan was blown up for holding on to the ball after his team were scrummed off their feet.

Steyn's attempts at goal weren't as successful, with the Bulls pivot missing a penalty and a drop-goal in the opening spell.

Cheetahs prop and most crowds' favourite son Ollie Le Roux was a thorn in the Bulls backside as the prop scrummed like a man possessed and tackelled like a demon.

However, his hard work couldn't keep Bulls prop Wessel Roux from bashing his way over the Cheetahs' whitewash six minutes from half-time.

The visitors had done well to keep several Bulls forwards from sneaking under a tackle, but Roux managed to finish off his teammates' efforts.

Steyn had no trouble with the conversion as he kicked his first points of the match to put his side in the lead for the first time in the match.

The Bulls wouldn't give up this lead as the teams ran out for the second half with the score at 7-6.

Wings Philip Burger and Bryan Habana got the half started the same way they did the first, by having a brawl on the sidelines. Cheetahs wing Burger won the battle as he was awarded with a penalty for Habana's uncalled for tackle of his opposite number over the advertising board.

The Bulls created several chances in the opening stages of the second half - Du Preez was ruled off-side after pouncing on a loose ball in the Cheetahs in-goal area, while Habana was ruled to have knocked the ball on by the TMO after Steyn put a cross-kick in towards the corner.

Habana was in celebratory mood soon after though as he touched down for the Bulls second try after picking up a loose ball that popped out from the side of a failed Cheetahs scrum. The wing showed brilliant pace to run around the scrum on the left hand side of the field and score a meter out from the poles.

Steyn added the extras and the Bulls suddenly had a handy 14-6 lead.

Bosman had an opportunity to put his team closer but failed. Instead it was Steyn that kept his team in front from taking advantage off a high tackle from Smith on Bulls centre JP Nel.

With the hosts eleven points clear of their visitors, the game looked to be slowly put to bed.

That was until replacement prop CJ van der Linde produced a moment of magic that would have even a magician sit up and take notice.

With the little amount of ball the Cheetahs had, Philip Burger managed to create a bit of space on his outside only to pass inside to a flying Van der Linde. The Bok prop used his brute strength and his surprising pace to bash four defenders out of his way as he made a 45-meter dash for the try-line.

Bosman's conversion was helped with Van der Linde's sense to place the ball under the posts.

It was game on again with the scores now standing at 17-13.

It wasn't to last long though as the Bulls stole yet another crucial line-out on the Cheetahs' line, only for another prop Jaco Engels to wriggle his way through three defenders and slap the ball down for his team.

The decision was left to the TMO who was kept busy all night, but kept up with his good calls by allowing the try.

Again Steyn was on hand to add the extra two points that had the Bulls crowd in rapture.

The blue flags stopped waving when the Cheetahs managed to have the last laugh through a try to replacement wing Eddie Fredericks. But it was too little too late as the ref signaled the end to an enthralling match.

Man of the match: Ollie le Roux was in superb form for the Cheetahs and is unfortunate his efforts weren't rewarded with a win. But the player who kept to the motto of 'never say die' when his team were taking a bashing, and led from the front when his team were giving a bashing was Bulls and Springbok scrum-half Fourie du Preez. His phenomenal kicking behind the scrums,rucks and mauls spurred his team on, while his ferocious tackling was nothing short of inspirational.

The scorers:

For the Bulls:

Tries: Roux, Habana, Engels

Cons: Steyn 3

Pen: Steyn

For the Cheetahs:

Tries: Van der Linde, Fredericks

Cons: Bosman 2

Pens: Bosman 2

Teams:

Bulls: 15 Johan Roets, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Anton Leonard, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg,

5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Danie Thiart, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Wessel Roux

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Richard Bands, 18 Jaco Engels, 19 Adriaan Fondse, 20 Hilton Lobberts, 21 Nicholas Eyre, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter

Cheetahs: 15 Tiger Mangweni, 14 Philip Burger, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Ronnie Cooke, 10 Herkie Kruger, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Ryno van der Merwe, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Henro Scholtz, 5 Corniel van Zyl, 4 Darren Nell, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adrian Strauss, 1 Ollie le Roux.

Replacements: 16 Richard Strauss, 17 Wiaan du Preez, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Bian Vermaak, 20 Kabamba Floors, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Eddie Fredericks

Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Touch judges: Phillip Bosch (South Africa), Pro Legoete (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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