Bulls stutter past kings
REPORT: The Blue Bulls secured a 49-35 bonus-point win over the Eastern Province Kings in their Currie Cup encounter at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
Although the game produced 12 tries, it was an error-riddle game in which the stand-out feature was the Kings' commitment to their cause.
The Kings played with energy and determination, especially on defence.
In contrast, the Bulls started like a team who thought they only had to turn up to collect the win and struggled to find their rhythm.
Bulls captain Arno Botha expressed his disappointment in the quality of his team's performance - despite outscoring the Kings by seen tries to five.
The number of unforced errors by the home team told the story - poor passes and shocking handling were the norm.
The Kings got off to a perfect start - tries by hooker Mike Willemse and centre Burton Klaasen.
Willemse powered over as the Bulls struggled to get into the game and Klaasen intercepted a poor pass by Bulls flyhalf Tiaan Schoeman. Kobus Marais converted both and within five minutes the Kings had a 14-0 lead.
As was to be expected, the Bulls dragged themselves back into the game.
Schoeman went from villain to hero as he threw a dummy to stroll over for his team's first try.
A line-out steal by the Bulls saw wing Jamba Ulengo freed up down the right wing and his pace carried him clear of the cover defence. Schoeman added both conversions and at the end of the first quarter it was level at 20-all
The Kings briefly held the lead again, after a Marais penalty, but a poor pass bounced favourably for Jannes Kirsten and the Bulls flank sprinted over for a third try.
Another penalty narrowed the gap to 20-21, but another favourable bounce - from a kick ahead - saw Bjorn Basson gather the ball for the Bulls' bonus-point try. Schoeman's conversions made it 28-20 just after the half-hour mark.
On the stroke of half-time Kings fullback Johan Tromp exploited some shocking Bulls defence to get his team's third try. The conversion was wide, but at the break the Bulls held a slender three-point (28-25) lead at the break.
It went from bad to worse for the under-performing Bulls as the final quarter approach - wing Siviwe Soyizwapi slipping through the porous Bulls defence in a rehearsed move from a scrum. The conversion was wide, but the Kings had the lead - 30-28 - and a bonus point.
This seemed to spark the Bulls into life and Burger Odendaal ran a great line and took the pass from Schoeman to go over.
Shortly after, the Bulls won turnover ball at a line-out and showed some great interplay for Ulengo to score his second try and the Bulls' sixth - 42-30.
The Kings kept on fighting and replacement hooker snapped up a loose ball at the breakdown and barged over for the Kings' fifth try.
Again the Bulls hit back immediately, Joshua Stander at the end of a flowing move. The Bulls continued to kick their conversion - unlike the Kings - and with the game going into the final 10 minutes the home team held a 49-35 lead.
The last 10 minutes continued the trend of repeated errors and the Bulls hung on for a vital win.
Man of the match: After such and error-riddled game - the bad interspersed with moments of brilliance - our award is not going to an individual, but the entire Eastern Province Kings team - purely for their commitment and making a mockery of the Bulls' supposed favouritism.
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries:Schoeman, Ulengo 2, Kirsten, Basson, Odendaal, Stander
Cons: Schoeman 7
For the Eastern Province Kings:
Tries:Willemse, Klaasen, Tromp, Soyizwapi, Bezuidenhout
Cons: Marais 2
Pens: Marais 2
Yellow card: Rudolph Snyman (Blue Bulls, 32 - cynical foul, playing the ball on the ground)
Blue Bulls: 15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Entienne Swanepoel, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Irne Herbst, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Joshua Stander.
Eastern Province Kings: 15 Johan Tromp, 14 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 13 Burton Klaasen, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Kobus Marais, 9 Ricky Schroeder (captain), 8 Christiaan de Bruin, 7 Sebastian Ferreira, 6 Vince Jobo, 5 David Antonites, 4 Mthetheleli Fuzani, 3 Vukile Sofisa, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Justin Forwood.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Barend Potgieter, 18 Ettienne Oosthuizen, 19 Luke van der Smit, 20 Jacques Fick, 21 Minenhle Mthethwa, 22 Lungelo Goza.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Ruhan Meiring
TMO: Johan Greeff