A dominant second-half performance saw the Blue Bulls surge past a determined Griquas side to claim a 35-20 victory at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
What a sad, sad sight! It must be one of the saddest sights in the history of South African rugby - Loftus Versfeld on the opening day of the Currie Cup with the Blue Bulls playing and hardly a soul in the ground. After 120 years, this is what the oldest and best provincial tournament in the world of rugby has become as administrators go for more money through more gimmicks. There are probably antipodean iconoclasts rubbing their hands in glee as South Africa become just as badly off as they are.
It is so sad. It is also infuriating - a birthright sold.
Oh, it was a clear evening but cold at Loftus for a kick-off at 19.00 - 4 degrees they said. But that is not the whole reason at all. No Springboks, no people - that was it. After all there were 10 Blue Bulls in the Springbok squad for this new, bigger Championship.
The game had its moments. The Blue Bulls dominated possession and territory throughout but at half-time Griquas led 13-9, despite having eccentric Willie le Roux in the sin bin. Le Roux was the high and the low of the half.
The score was 3-all after François Brummer had goaled a penalty when Deon Stegmann was offside, Jürgen Visser, pretending to be French, had missed two drops and a penalty, and Louis Fouché had then goaled a penalty. Then came a delicious moment.
After several phases Griquas attacked down the left. Le Roux skipped and drew two onto him to give Rocco Jansen an overlap. Jansen passed back inside to Le Roux who gave Jansen a perfect return pass for the wing to go round to score. 10-3 after 11 minutes.
The Blue Bulls did well with a long, fast maul and Martin Muller was offside. 10-6 after 17 minutes.
Soon afterwards Le Roux did, almost with method, a tip tackle on Visser and was sent to the sin bin. He was probably fortunate that it was only for 10 minutes. While he was away, his bereft team-mates flew into tackles, and Fouché goaled a third penalty when Justin Downey was penalised. 10-9 after 26 minutes.
Jacques Coetzee, the light of the Griquas side, had a wonderful break off an up-and-under and then Brummer took a low pass from Jonathan Adendorff and in one movement dropped a goal that just sneaked over the crossbar, as the TMO confirmed. 13-9.
It took Griquas 20 minutes to add to their score while the Blue Bulls found profit in a more adventurous approach.
From a line-out on the Blue Bulls right, Arno Botha charged past Downey and charged on for the line. He gave a perfect pass to Akona Ndungane on his left and the elegant wing scored under the posts. The Blue Bulls led 16-13 after 43 minutes.
Just after this hooker (sic) Willie Wepener had the first of three telling breaks. (He was certainly the most incisive player on the field.) He gave to Frik Kirsten but the prop was caught from behind.
Fouché kicked two more penalties and the Blue Bulls were out to a 22-13 lead after 53 minutes with another Wepener break between the penalties, but hope was soon with the Griquas.
They threw deep to Frikkie Spies at a line-out and mauled quickly to the line. They bashed and nudged wider to their right till lock Martin surged over from close quarters. 22-20 after 60 minutes.
Was the unlikely about to become a reality?
Stephan Watermeyer was penalised at a tackle and Fouché goaled and then for the third time Wepener cut through the Griquas. He gave to Stegmann who gave to scrumhalf Ruan Snyman who ran the 20 metres unchallenged to score at the posts. 32-20 with 12 minutes to play and then 35-20 when Le Roux was silly at a tackle and penalised.
Man of the Match: Willie Wepener who did all that a hooker should do and then three times set the game alight with his breaks.
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Ndungane, Snyman
Cons: Fouche 2
Pens: Fouche 7
Tries: Jansen, Muller
Cons: Brummer 2
Yellow card: Le Roux (Dangerous tackle, 19 mins)
Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Cornell Hess, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Jan Serfontein.
Griquas: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 JP Nel, 12 Stephan Watermeyer, 11 Rocco Janse, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 Jonathan Adendorff, 6 Justin Downey, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Ligtoring Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Rayno Barnes, 1 Stef Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Hanru van Niekerk, 18 Frikkie Spies, 19 Jaco Nepgen, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Wilmaure Louw.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert, Attie Buitendag
TMO: Shaun Veldsman