Late try salvages two points
The Blues Bulls shocked defending Currie Cup champions Western Province by scoring a late try to earn a deserved 24-all draw at Newlands on Saturday.
The Bulls came into the game as huge underdogs and while it looked like Province would run away with it - taking a 21-9 lead on the hour mark - the visitors strangled the Cape Town outfit into submission.
It was a late try by Francois Venter, with less than two minutes on the clock, that saw the Bulls take two valuable points away from Newlands.
With the new scrum sequence favouring powerful teams, the Bulls had a clear advantage in the set pieces - even though some of the referee's calls would have puzzled the visitors.
The most telling factor was how early in the second half WP replaced a struggling Brok Harris with Springbok Pat Cilliers - as the Bulls continued to use the scrums to apply the blowtorch and get back into the game.
However, it was on defence where the visitor' problems started, as the WP team's exciting runners seemed to find holes with monotonous regularity.
The Bulls enjoyed the early ascendancy, winning a penalty after a maul was illegally collapsed, but Tony Jantjies was unable to convert the third-minute opportunity into points.
It was Province who opened the scoring in the eighth minute - Gio Aplon getting the five-pointer after the Bulls were penalised at a scrum and a quick tap left the Bulls' defensive lines disjointed and unable to cope with the waves of WP runners. Gary van Aswegen added the extras 7-0.
The Bulls eventually got on the board in the 14th minute, after Tony Jantjies kicked the second of two penalties awarded to his team - 3-7.
As the first quarter drew to a close, Damien de Allende put Pat Howard into a huge hole and over - even though the TMO had a couple of looks at it. Van Aswegen's conversion made it 14-3.
The Bulls worked hard to get back into the game and just short of the half-hour mark they won a penalty right in front after WP captain Deon Fourie infringed at the breakdown twice in quick succession. Jantjies made it 6-14.
Province came close to a third try right on the half-time hooter, but the bounce eluded Aplon - who had launched the chip-kick - and they went into the break with the eight-point lead.
The Bulls made the stronger start after the break, with Jurgen Visser being denied an early try, after the last pass drifted forward.
The reward eventually came in the 52nd minute, Jantjies slotting his third penalty after another breakdown offence - 9-14.
Another questionable call by the match officials resulted in a penalty to Province for a dangerous tackle, which they turned into a line-out. Although the maul went nowhere, WP found a huge hole - exploited by Nizaam Carr - after a few quick phases. Van Aswegen made it 21-9.
With just over 10 minutes left on the clock, the Bulls found the score that put them back in the game - a try to Francois Venter that came after the patiently build up pressure and had already won a penalty advantage. Jantjies added the extras, to narrow the gap to 16-21.
However, the Bulls flyhalf missed a penalty from 40 metres out with just under 10 minutes left on the clock, as the Bulls continued to apply the pressure in the scrums.
With six minutes on the clock, and another penalty, Jantjies managed to make it a two-point game - 19-21. However, Van Aswegen made it a five-point game soon afterwards.
Still the Bulls came back at Province - taking it through the phases till Jean Cook went over in the right corner with under two minutes left on the clock. Jantjies could not add the extras and it was tied at 24-all.
There was just enough time for WP to launch a late raid to salvage a win, but the Bulls held on for the draw.
Man of the match: A strong-running South African Under-20 loose forward Jacques du Plessis, who often crossed the advantage line, and later Jean Cook off the bench, gave the Bulls some impetus. Gary van Aswegen's tactical game was outstanding, but his normally calm demeanour seemed to have disappeared in the second half when he made a couple of crucial errors. The all-action game of Siyabonga Ntubeni was also good to behold, while hard-working captain Deon Fourie detracted from some of the good things with his incessant off-the-ball antics. However, our award goes to the Bulls scrum, which dominated and managed to win valuable penalties - which got them back into the game after the break. The award goes to all eight forwards, not just the front row.
For Western Province:
Tries: Aplon, Howard, Carr
Cons: Van Aswegen 3
Pen: Van Aswegen
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Venter, Cooke
Pens: Jantjies 4
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Ross Geldenhuys, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Berton Klaasen.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Marcell van der Merwe, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Lusanda Jam, Marc van Zyl
TMO: Deon van Blommestein