Bulls leave it late in Loftus thriller
MATCH REPORT: It required a 78th-minute try by replacement scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl for the Blue Bulls to advance to the Currie Cup Final.
The Bulls edged arch rivals Western Province 36-30 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday and will now meet the Free State Cheetahs in the Final in Bloemfontein next week.
What a splendid match! How agonising it was, the more so the closer you were to one team or the other! What a credit to the two teams and to the Currie Cup, for it can still galvanise players into producing a thrilling, skilful game such as this.
The only pity was all the blue around Loftus Versfeld - not the Blue of the Blue Bulls or of Western Province but the blue of empty seats. There were just some 20 000 in a ground that in days of yore would have been packed to bursting for matches less enthralling than this one was.
The first part of the last 10 minutes were far too slow if you were a Blue Bulls supporter, but then far too long after a while. It all depended on what the scoreboard had to say.
With 17 minutes to play the Blue Bulls took the lead at 29-27, and even on that narrow lead they ran in search of more and came close to scoring when Rob du Preez got to a long kick in his in-goal a nanosecond before Jamba Ulengo did.
Then Jano Vermaak broke and the Blue Bulls' Arno Botha was penalised, but Western Province went for the line-out five metres from the Blue Bulls line. Surprise, Western Province did not maul but attacked and when the Blue Bulls were again penalised five metres from their line Nizaam Carr tapped and went in search of a try. Jason Jenkins was offside and this time Western Province kicked for goal and took a 30-29 lead with 8 minutes to play.
Travis Ismaiel won the ball for the Blue Bulls at the kick-off and they ran some more, going wide left and right until they knocked on and Western Province footed free, but the Blue Bulls won the ball back near the touchline on their left and 21-year-old Ivan van Zyl, substituting at scrumhalf for Rudy Paige, broke a long way down the left. He gave to Burger Odendaal who was tackled but the Blue Bulls bashed and went right. They bashed at the heroic defence of the Western Province goal-line till they had gone far right and when Van Zyl picked up the ball there were no defenders in front of him. He scored far out. But Tiaan Schoeman of the metronomic boot, converted and it was 36-30 with half a minute to go. Western Province kicked off, the Blue Bulls, with difficulty won the ball as the final siren sounded and Van Zyl kicked it into the stand to put the Blue Bulls into Final in Bloemfontein next week.
What a wonderful match! Who still believes that knock-out matches need to be stodgy?
The Blue Bulls kicked off and Western Province cleared, then won a Blue Bulls line-out and ran the ball. It was clear then that it was going to be an intense affair as both sides tackled with meaning.
Against the run of play Schoeman put the Blue Bulls on the attack with a diagonal kick which left Western Province needing to win a line-out five metres from their line. They made a mess of it and the Blue Bulls had a five-metre scrum. They went through one-pass phases, which they later proved were a predictable waste of effort as they were far more effective when they went through pass-and-support phases. They lost this first opportunity when Jannes Kirsten knocked on in Juan de Jongh's tackle. Dewaldt Duvenage cleared but from the line-out on their right the Bulls had Roelof Smith in the centre and he burst through Kobus van Dyk and the Blue Bulls were on the hunt again. They went right and a brilliant moment Odendaal drew two defenders and with a bril;laint pass put Ismaiel over for the first try. 7-0 after 10 minutes.
Western Province had a line-out on the Blue Bulls 22. They threw deep to Rynhardt Elstadt and formed a maul. They started rumbling forward and then speeded it up to race it over for a try credited to Carr. A 22-metre maul for a try against the mighty Blue Bulls! 7-7 after 19 minutes.
Western Province were penalised three times after this - Carr for a high tackle, the scrum for a collapse and then a tackle when Smit was trying to get the ball off De Jongh. Schoeman made it 16-7 after 36 minutes.
On half-time Smit was penalised at a tackle and Du Preez goaled to make the half-time score 16-10, a try apiece.
Right at the start of the second half Bongi Mbonambi jolted Kirsten in a tackle, Dries Swanepoel was penalised for falling over and Du Preez goaled. 16-13 after 41 minutes.
At this early stages both teams started making changes, beginning with the props, first the Blue Bulls, then Western Province
Schoeman broke, Carr caught him but the Blue Bulls went left and bashed. Wilco Louw was penalised. 19-13 after 46 minutes.
The Blue Bulls came back on the attack and were going this way and that. They passed to the left where Chris van Zyl intercepted well inside his own half. A lock lacking speed, he passed to De Jongh who gave to speedster Werner Kok who raced down the touchline and round to the posts, and for the first time in the match Western Province led - 20-19 after 49 minutes.
The lead lasted five minutes till Schoeman goaled another penalty. 22-20.
That lead also lasted five minutes. Western Province kicked a penalty out for a five-metre line-out which falling bodies stopped and Western Province went wide left and bashed till tall Jan de Klerk stretched and scored. 27-22 after 58 minutes..
That lead, too, lasted five minutes.
From near half-way Ulengo went on a mazy run and the Blue Bulls were on the attack. Schoeman kicked a penalty out for a five-metre line-out. They bashed, RG Snyman was close and then Jason Jenkins was over for the try that gave the Blue Bulls a 29-27 lead, which lasted till those final ten, breathtaking, agonising minutes which ended in Blue Bulls glee and Western Province dejection.
Man of the Match: Tiaan Schoeman is an obvious choice with his accurate goal-kicking, the variation in his play, his telling diagonal and his telling break. There was tall RG Snyman, so strong, so mobile, so efficient in the line-outs. There was Roelof Smit who threatened to beat Western Province with turnovers alone. There were Rudy Paige with his quick pass and Burger Odendaal with his creativity and power. Our choice is Tiaan Schoeman.
Moment of the Match: There was Werner Kok's try but nothing can compare with the contribution of substitute scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl whose break and try gave the Blue Bulls victory.
Villain of the match: Not a sign of one. It was a tough encounter by two teams of gentlemen.
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Ismaiel, Jenkins, Van Zyl
Cons: Schoeman 3
Pens: Schoeman 5
For Western Province:
Tries: Carr, Kok, De Klerk
Cons: Du Preez 3
Pens: Du Preez 3
Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Bjorn Basson.
Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (captain), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Johnny Kotze, 23 Scott van Breda.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, AJ Jacobs
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman