Bulls finish strong, but fall short
MATCH REPORT: The Bulls finished their Super Rugby season on a high, with a comprehensive 43-17 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
However, the bonus-point win was too little, too late - as the Sharks had already claimed the Africa conference wildcard in the play-offs with their win over the Sunwolves a day earlier.
The Bulls, although far from the finished product, showed glimpses of their potential - especially in a dominant second half.
As for the Cheetahs, their lack of experience showed in an error-riddled game that often handed possession to the Bulls.
Both teams were playing for pride only - the Bulls finishing the season with nine victories from 15 starts, the Cheetahs just four victories.
The Bulls took control early on, with flyhalf Tian Schoeman slotting two penalties in the second and 14th minute.
However, the Bulls' wonky scrum continued to cost them and Fred Zeilinga got the Cheetahs on the board at the end of the first quarter - after yet another set piece penalty against the visitors.
The Bulls persisted with their ball-in-hand game and it brought them reward when wing Ismaiel powered over the top of Cheetahs fullback Clayton Blommetjies.
Flyhalf Schoeman couldn't add the extras - 11-3.
On the half-hour mark Bulls No.8 Renaldo Bothma raced over from a great line-out move and a good angle. Schoeman's conversion made it 18-3 - which is how it stayed till half-time.
Tian Schoeman stretched the Bulls' lead to 21-3 with a penalty in the 50th minute.
However, the Cheetahs were given a glimmer of hope of a comeback when a flat pass sent fullback Blommetjies over for a converted try. Zeilinga added the conversion to narrow the gap to 10-=21.
However, a turnover, a kick downfield and some great chasing by Ismaiel saw Blommetjies being caught in possession inside his 22. Bothma was the first to arrive on the scene, powered over the two backs, picked up the loose ball and strolled over for his second try.
Schoeman kicked the conversion and a penalty soon afterwards, as the Bulls stretched their lead to 31-10.
They were not done there as Ismaiel crossed for his second with 15 minutes left - 38-10.
The Cheetahs got a consolation score when replacement Carl Wegner powered over, before Bulls wing Ulengo had the final say with a late try.
Man of the match: Clayton Blommetjies had his moments, Raymond Rhule had a few good runs, Teboho Mohojé tried hard and Paul Schoeman was the Cheetahs' most productive player. Jesse Kriel again showed he is a better fullback than centre, Travis Ismaiel showed great finishing for two fine tries and Pieter Labuschagne was all over the place with another energetic performance. However, our award goes to Bulls No.8 Renaldo Bothma - who not only scored two tries, but had an enormous workrate that set him apart from the rest.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Blommetjies, Wegner
Cons: Zeilinga, Whitehead
For the Bulls:
Tries: Ismaiel 2, Bothma 2, Ulengo
Cons: T Schoeman 2, Brummer
Pens: T Schoeman 4
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Teboho Mohojé (captain), 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Nicolaas van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nché, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Carl Wegner, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Ryno Benjamin.
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Pieter Labuschagne, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Sarel Marais.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)Date: Saturday, July 16