Planet Rugby

Bulls open account with derby win

01st March 2014 16:00

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bjorn basson chrysander botha bulls v lions super rugby 2014

Rising highest: Bjorn Basson

The Bulls eased past the Lions 25-17 despite poor weather to record their first Super Rugby victory of 2014 at Loftus Versfeld.

A try from centre Jan Serfontein and 20 points from the boot of fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter ensured the hosts an important win, and the eight-point margin meant their rivals - who outscored them two tries to one - headed back to Johannesburg with nothing to add to their tournament tally.

Perhaps a sign of the recent lack of success down Pretoria way, the Bulls ran out for their first home game of the season - and a derby match at that - to a glaringly sparse Loftus Versfeld.

The lashing rain certainly did not aid the attendance figure, nor did it bode well for running rugby, but both teams moved the ball well and carried powerfully in attack during the first-half. The contact area in particular proved a terrifically physical contest the like of which we tend to associate with South African rugby, and the turnovers flew thick and fast throughout the game.

Frans Ludeke fielded eight Springboks in his starting XV, with Victor Matfield making his 127th Super Rugby appearance - a record for a South African player. The Bulls were no doubt spurred on by a pair of defeats in their maiden 2014 fixtures, while the Lions - widely labelled the tournament's whipping boys - arrived at Loftus off the back of a brace of impressive victories.

Potgieter opened the scoring early on, banging over a long-range penalty after the visitors entered a maul from the side, and added a second two minutes later when the Lions strayed offside again.

But the hosts shot themselves in the foot straight from the kick-off; full-back Jurgen Visser gathered the restart cleanly, but dallied on the ball, and his attempted clearance was charged down by the onrushing Stephan Watermeyer. The centre calmly followed up and grounded for the game's opening try. Fly-half Marnitz Boshoff converted without trouble.

The Bulls came roaring back to regain the lead ten minutes later. A turnover yielded quick ball for Ludeke's men, and with the Lions defence in disarray, play was smartly spread wide to Bjorn Basson. Basson burned his way down the left touchline, before drawing the cover defence and releasing Serfontein to crash over unchallenged. Potgieter added the extras to restore the hosts' six-point cushion.

Boshoff and Potgieter exchanged three-pointers in the final ten minutes of the half; the Lions pivot's effort cancelled out by a booming 40-metre drop-goal and a close-range penalty from his opposite number, before Boshoff struck the post with practically the final kick of first forty minutes.

The rugby grew scrappier and the play more conservative after the break as both teams tired; balls were spilled, and territory was of greater value than possession with time ticking away. As such, it proved to be a low-scoring affair punctuated by errors and infringements.

It was another 21 minutes before the scoreboard operators were called into action, Potgieter slotting penalty number four, and forcing the Lions to overcome a 12-point deficit.

That kick did seem to stir the Lions into life as the substitutes began to roll on and off, but they were blighted by their own imprecision and indiscipline. The added power from the Bulls bench turned the tables in the scrummage - an area the visitors had edged in the first half - and the buckling Lions front-row allowed Potgieter to kill things off with another penalty on 74 minutes.

Johan Ackermann's men tried manfully to fight back and claim a losing bonus point, and they did manage a consolation score courtesy of another Bulls charge-down error. Matfield stole a Lions lineout ten metres from his own line, but after Francois Hougaard recovered possession; he hammered his attempted touch-finder straight into the face of Willie Wepener; the substitute managing to flop on the loose ball in the in-goal area. The hooker will no doubt be nursing a sore head this evening, but Boshoff landed the touchline conversion to leave his side eight points behind.

In spite of a frantic final minute down in Lions territory, neither side could add to the scoreline, and the Bulls finally got off the mark for their 2014 Super Rugby campaign.

The scorers:

For Bulls:
Try: Serfontein
Con: Potgieter
Pen:Potgieter 5
Drop: Potgieter

For Lions:
Tries: Watermeyer, Wepener
Cons: Boshoff 2
Pen: Boshoff

The teams:

Bulls:15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers

Lions:15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 JW Jonker , 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni , 20 Willie Britz, 21. Ross Cronjé, 22 Courtnall Skosan, 23 Coenie van Wyk

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greef (South Africa)

By Jamie Lyall
@JLyall93

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