Bulls grab a draw at Newlands
August 10, 2013

A late try from Jean Cook grabbed the Vodacom Blue Bulls a shock 24-all draw against DHL Western Province in an Absa Currie Cup match where the visitors shocked friend and foe with their combative, physical approach.

Four weeks ago a much stronger Bulls team, on paper at least, came to Newlands and got smashed in the final Vodacom Super Rugby league match of the season.

So it was understandable that the hosts, who have had far less disruption to the team since then than the Bulls have and also finished the Sanzar competition with momentum, should start the match as overwhelming favourites.

That being so, Jono Ross’s Bulls team can see this draw as a moral victory – although if Tony Jantjies had kicked the touchline conversion of the Cook try to win the game for his team, there should have been no quibbles from Deon Fourie and his WP side.

The Bulls dominated WP at forward for most of the 80 minutes, again a dramatic shift from four weeks ago, and would have won it had they more experience at back.

The Bulls conceded two tries in the opening quarter to a WP side that was more incisive than they were at the back, and in one way it was like watching one of the WP/Northern Transvaal showdowns of several decades ago. In the sense that it was a case of the WP backs up against the Bulls forwards.

The WP backs gave them the lead, and they were still comfortably ahead at 14-6 at halftime, but the Bulls’ dominance at forward just grew and grew and you could almost say there was some inevitability about the equalising try.

WP’s first try came in the 10th minute and resulted from a systematic build-up that eventually saw Gio Aplon going over. The Newlands faithful are used to seeing Aplon scoring, and in that sense the try was a triumph for the tried and tested.

But there was also some stuff that was new for the WP supporters to enthuse about. It came in the form of Pat Howard and Cheslin Kolbe.

There was far more hype around the latter in the build-up to this game than there was around the first Currie Cup start of his fellow age-group player.

Kolbe, a much slighter player, didn’t have much opportunity but when he did have a brief taste of the ball his dancing running style had the crowd on its feet.

Kolbe is far from a big human specimen, and it seems to be WP’s lot that they trade these days with a more diminutive back three than most modern top level teams, but then maybe you can get away with it when you have sizeable specimens like Howard and the equally young but massive Damian de Allende in the midfield.

Howard, normally a wing, showed the benefits of size at the back when with his first touch of the ball he kept his feet and kept ploughing forward for a couple of metres even though he had two or three defenders hanging onto him. When you’re crossing the gainline, playing attacking rugby is that much easier.

Howard’s contribution didn’t end there of course, and given how the Bulls came back later in the game, the try he scored in the 20th minute, after Nizaam Carr had peeled around the back of a scrum and Damian de Allende had made an impressive break, Howard cut inside to go over untouched for his team’s second try.

That made the score 14-3 and at that stage the predicted big Province win looked a strong prospect. But this was the second match of the weekend where the changes wrought by the new scrum engagement laws were clearly evident.

Just as Griquas had outscrummed the Sharks to win in Durban the previous nights, so the Bulls bossed WP.

Four weeks ago a full strength Bulls pack came to Cape Town and came off decidedly second best in this department, so while there may have been other factors involved, such as complacency, yesterday did send out a warning to Deon Fourie’s men that they have some hard work to do on their scrumming.

Scrumming does look set to be more of a contest than it was before the law change. It’s not reason to panic, for this was the first exposure to it at this level for WP, but it did contribute to this being a much closer game than the one we saw when the Bulls’ Super Rugby team came to town last month.

Even though they were being caned at forward, WP still looked to have the match in hand for most of the way. They were up 21-9 going into the final 12 minutes but that was when Francois Venter scored the first Bulls try to bring his team back into it, and it became even closer when Jantjies landed a penalty to make it a two point game.

With just a few minutes left Gary van Aswegen kicked a three pointer that the home team might have though wrapped up the game, but they reckoned without the fighting spirit of a young Bulls team that simply refused to lie down.

Back they stormed, the big blond flank replacement Cook scoring the try that grabbed a result that might have been less than the Bulls deserved on a day when they made a massive statement.

It’s the home games that are the must-wins in the Currie Cup, so they should be pleased with the result. On this evidence the other teams may have reason to go to Loftus feeling a level of trepidation.


Western Province: Tries: Gio Aplon, Patrick Howard, Nizaam Carr. Conversions. Gary van Aswegen (3). Penalty: Van Aswegen.

Blue Bulls: Tries: Francois Venter, Jean Cook. Conversion: Tony Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (4).


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