Planet Rugby

Bulls flatten Lions

07th March 2008 18:55

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Walter Venter Lions

Crunch Moment: Lions centre Walter Venter is caught in possession

The Bulls recorded an ill-tempered, error-riddled 31-17 win over the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, earning themselves four very valuable points before setting off for Australasia.

Derick 'Liefling' Hougaard weighed in with 21 points and wing Akona Ndungane dotted down in the same corner twice to send the Lions back to Jo'burg with their tails between their legs.

A lot of games are called derbies, but with less than 60km separating Ellis Park and Loftus Versfeld, the Gauteng derby is the real deal and a hot fixture in South African rugby.

The return of Bakkies Botha and IRB Player of the Year Bryan Habana provided the tonic the doctor ordered for the Bulls.

Both players were a bit rusty but still made positive contributions. Habana missed a tackle or two but created attacking opportunities and Botha lived up to his reputation as an "enforcer".

Having crossed the try-line only once in their last two games, the home team seemed out to prove that they are capable of scoring tries.

Fans Ludeke was forced to pick two fly-halves with Morné Steyn starting at inside centre, but it might have been a blessing in disguise as excellent hand-work from Steyn and Derick Hougaard resulted in two tries.

Ndungane might have scored those two tries but there won't be too many defenders having sleepless nights tonight, as the Bulls seem unable to run at angles and still rely on their pack to hammer the life out of their opponents to create some pace.

Discipline was once again a problem for the Bulls. Referee JC Fortuin simultaneously sent-off full-back Zane Kirchner and sent Bakkies Botha to the sin bin in the 30th minutes.

If Botha was given a breather for a 'head butt' it seems the match officials didn't appreciate Botha's technique of using his head to clear out the ruck.

Kirchner's red card was for an off-the-ball spear-tackle.

The Bulls' apparent disregard for the rules of the game will continue to cost them. News from Loftus directly after the game was that Botha would be cited.

The amount of penalties and free-kicks given away by both sides was criminal and at this level one expects more from professional rugby players.

On the positive side, the Bulls defence was super.

They played for ten minutes with only 13 men and then another entire half with only 14 and still managed to win. Fourie du Preez's leadership skills once again proved priceless.

You didn't need to watch the game to know where things went wrong for the Lions. They outscored their hosts three tries to two and still lost by 14 points!

It's common knowledge in the Super 14 that giving away a penalty within 40 or 50 metres of the posts at Loftus is about as good as conceding three points and Hougaard's right boot was as lethal as ever.

Combine all those penalties to the Lions' 15 missed tackles and you've got a recipe for disaster.

The Bulls tactics off using the up-and-under kick was an interesting but effective choice.

Lions full-back Louis Ludik hasn't been bad under the high ball this season but when Hougaard decided to hoof the ball high into the lights from a free kick and Habana used his sixth sense to get under it, the Lions defence was all at sea.

Great hands from the Bulls' backs saw Ndungane go over in the corner for the game's first try.

The Lions gave away six penalties in the next ten minutes and as a result were trailing 17-0 after 30 minutes.

When the referee produced cards of both colours from his pocket and showed them to the Bulls one would have thought the visitors would be in business.

Dusty Noble scored for the Lions only to see Hougaard kick another penalty and Ndungane score his second soon afterwards.

The team in red come out the tunnel 20 points behind and were forced to play high-risk rugby in the second half.

For all their willingness to play positively, the Lions, once again, lacked poise with ball in hand. At times they seemed to be without any sort of plan other than to recklessly fling the ball around.

Error after error must have had Eugene Ellof pulling at the last locks of hair on his head; it's like they're trying too hard.

South African teams are notorious for starting their Super 14 campaigns off slowly, and it seems like déjà vu at the moment. All those errors against quality opponents would have been severely punished - as both teams have already seen.

But Jano Vermaak's performance for the Lions would have put a smile on his coaches face. The Lions scrum-half stole the ball from the back of the depleted Bulls scrum to create the Lions' first try, and scored a second himself when he had the presence of mind to take a quick tap and dart through the sleeping Bulls defence in a classic example of how quick-thinkers can use ELVs to their advantage.

More bad news for the Bulls emerged from the change rooms after the game when it was reported that hooker Derick Kuun sustained an injury bad enough to jeopardise his chances of making the Australasian tour.

Man of the match: For the Lions, Joe van Niekerk was all over the park again and showed some deft touches. Jano Vermaak was his usual live-wire self. For the Bulls Derick Hougaard's kicking kept his team ahead all game but Akona Ndungane scored two tries, chased well, was excellent under the high ball and made a few crucial tackles.

Moment of the match: Jano Vermaak's try caught the Bulls napping. Clever boy!

Villain of the match: Bakkies Botha's use of the head was unsavoury but this award goes to Zane Kirchner - his spear-tackle on Jaco Pretorius was a shocker. Miles from the ball and totally unnecessary, he might well miss the plane Down Under.

The scorers:

For the Bulls:

Tries: Ndungane 2

Pens: Hougaard 6

Drop: Hougaard

For the Lions:

Tries: Noble, Vermaak, Benjamin

Con: Vermaak

Yellow card: Botha (head butt)

Red card:Kirchner (spear tackle)

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Wynand Olivier , 12 Morné Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 James van der Walt, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Dean Greyling, 19 Deon Stegmann, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Stephan Dippenaar, 22 Dewald Potgieter.

Lions: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Dusty Noble, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Louis Strydom, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Ernst Joubert (captain), 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Willem Stoltz, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.

Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Rudi Vogt, 22 Jannie Boshoff

Referee: JC Fortuin (South Africa)

Touch judges: Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)

Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Assessor: Banks Yantolo (South Africa)

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