The Bulls kept their side of the bargain by beating the Waratahs 16-13 in their Vodacom Super 14 rugby match played at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.
In a match played in an unseasonal Highveld downpour Loftus was a silent, damp cavern for the Bulls and the biggest cheer of the afternoon went up at Newlands after the Bulls had played out the tense last few minutes to deny the Waratahs the log points that might have taken them out of range of the Stormers.
Dan Retief reports for Superrugby that the Bulls came into their own in the wet conditions which made handling of the ball difficult and induced plenty of kicking. Exchanges resembled pre-ELV rugby and the Bulls, after being stretched early on as the Waratahs moved the ball quickly and held their passes, gradually gained the upperhand in the forwards to wipe out a 0-7 deficit, after going to the break 6-7 down, and getting in front for the first time (13-7) in the 45th minute.
Fittingly, given the history of the venue, the dropped goal turned out to be crucial as field goals by replacement Derick Hougaard and Morne Steyn, who chipped his over in the 73rd minute, outweighed one put over by Kurtley Beale.
Both teams could manage only one try — the Waratahs opening the scoring by moving the ball smartly to put Rob Horne over in the ninth minute and the Bulls replying with the touch-down by Derick Kuün shortly after half time that gave them the lead for the first time.
And, as so often in close matches in difficult conditions, the try came as a result of the Bulls exploiting Waratahs mistakes. The men from Sydney were hard on attack when Horne was unable to hold a hard flat pass, allowing Akona Ndungane to snatch the ball and give to Francois Hougaard to clear.
Sam Norton-Knight was in position to field the kick but when he skied his attempted up-and-under Wikus van Heerden leapt to win the ball, fed Bryan Habana, and the wing sent Gurthro Steemkamp trundling away on a long run.
It seemed the galloping prop had carried the ball too far but when he finally unloaded to Wynand Olivier on his inside the centre did well to quickly flick the ball inside to Kuün, who was knocked down by a skidding Tom Carter but regained his footing to score.
Morne Steyn’s conversion made it 13-7 to the Bulls which would become 13-10 in the 56th minute after a penalty by Beale, 13-all in the 65th minute when Beale landed a drop even though his pivoting foot had slipped before Steyn grabbed back the lead by successfully concluding a well-worked move.
The Bulls had gained impetus from the introduction off the bench of Danie Gerber, Rayno Gerber, Jaco Engels, Pedrie Wannenburg and Fourie du Preez and with the latter, Steyn and Hougaard to control field position with the boot the home-side were able to keep play in the danger zone for the Waratahs.
And their chance came from a free-kick. Instead of going for the scrum Du Preez tapped the ball to Van Heerden who, with the help of Rossouw, battered the ball up to the goal line and when it came back Steyn scooped it over for what turned out to be the winning drop.
The Waratahs gained a bonus point from the defeat to remain in second place on the log but, significantly, vulnerable to be overtaken by the Stormers and the Sharks — and, let’s not forget, also the Hurricanes and the Chiefs.
Bulls (6) 16: Try by Derick Kuün (44 min). Derick Hougaard kicked a dropped goal and Morne Steyn a conversion, a penalty and a dropped goal.
Waratahs (7) 13: Try by Rob Horne (9 min). Kurtley Beale kicked a conversion, a penalty and a dropped goal.Tweet