A late Tiger Mangweni try gave the Blue Bulls a bonus-point 37-6 victory over Western Province (WP) in Pretoria on Friday, putting the hosts back on top of the Currie Cup standings.
The celebratory Blue Bulls were the better side but it took a small aberration to confirm their superiority. Small aberration? Perhaps not because it is something drummed into players from their early teens: You don’t chip into their 22 unless you can catch the ball.
Rugby 365 reports that Joe Pietersen chipped in to a 22 cluttered with Blue Bull players, and that was it for Western Province. That was when the Blue Bulls bonus point became a reality. It was not the only Western Province error that got the Blue Bulls stampeding.
The Western Province played with enthusiasm. They threw themselves about but they tended to do so as isolated units. There was no really cohesive plan that would bring them points.
The Western Province attacked from Pietersen’s kick-off but that ended when Pietersen dropped for goal – in the first minute of the game. He then missed a penalty kick at goal and then dropped out directly into touch. It was not a great start.
The Blue Bulls on the other hand were cohesive. They won the tackle turnovers and in the crucial second half won the discipline. In the first half Western Province were well and truly in the game, as they found the penalty count (8-4 in their favour) helpful but the second half was all change, a penalty count of 5-1 to the Blue Bulls. In addition they suffered two yellow cards.
Schalk Brits got the first for foul play at a tackle when he had a scuffle with Derick Kuün at about the ten-minute mark. Then AJ Venter went with a calculated hit/punch/slap. This was with seven minutes to go. He had been on the field for just three minutes, which have been this weekend’s most highly paid three minutes in South African rugby.
Discipline certainly paid off for the Blue Bulls.
The Blue Bulls threatened first when Morné Steyn slipped a grubber at the Western Province line. Gio Aplon saved but was bundled over to concede a five-metre scrum. Western Province were offside soon after and Steyn had a kick from in front and five metres from the goal-line. 3-0 after 7 minutes.
Brits went to the sin bin and Steyn made it 6-0 after 11 minutes. Brits’s absence did not have an undue effect on Western Province for when he returned the score was 6-3 after Pietersen had goaled from a fair way out.
Western Province worked an overlap for flier Tonderai Chavhanga but he knocked on. They then went left and worked an overlap for Wylie Human who toed the ball ahead. The Blue Bulls saved but Western Province had a five-metre scrum. This led to a sharply angled penalty for Pietersen, which he goaled. 6-6 after 26 minutes.
The half-time score was 6-6 but the Western Province had the better chances to score in the 14 minutes before the break. Pietersen missed a drop and Brits raced some 30 metres cutting inside from the right till he was over but was held up by Jeandré Kruger and Pedrie Wannenburg. This gave Western Province a five-metre scrum but Bolla Conradie put the ball in skew and the Blue Bulls enjoyed a snort of relief. Steyn then missed with a drop attempt and a penalty.
Western Province started the second half well with Blaauw on the rumble but then Pietersen was way off with a drop attempt and Tiger Mangweni, who had a splendid evening, twice raced on the counter till the Blue Bulls were attacking and a long, perfect pass by Steyn went straight to John Mametsa who was virtually on the touch-line and he dabbed the ball over for a try in the corner. Steyn converted. 13-6 after 54 minutes.
The Blue Bulls attacked again and Western Province tackled their hearts out. The Blue Bulls got to the line but the Western Province won a turnover.
Then the Western Province attacked – a fatal attack. Going right Pietersen chipped straight to Mangweni who marked. The nuggety flyhalf kicked the ball downfield into vacant acres for the Western Province had been throwing everything into the attack. Pietersen got back first but could not control the ball. Chavhanga got it but the Blue Bulls got him and a scrum ensured. From the scrum Steyn spurted inside Pietersen. François Louw got Pietersen but blond Dewald Potgieter was at the line and the next thing Werner Kruger plunged over for a try which Steyn converted. 20-6.
When Venter was silly, Steyn made it 23-6 with seven minutes to go.
Burton Francis kicked a harmless kick down into Western Province territory where Aplon, with nobody of either side near him, knocked on. The Blue Bulls were on the attack again. The Blue Bulls made a penalty into a five-metre line-out. Western Province won a turnover and tried to run from their line. The next penalty the Blue Bulls tapped. A maul formed and suddenly Wikus van Heerden burst through it to score. Steyn converted. 30-6 with the match virtually over.
There was time to kick off. Steyn came racking back with the ball, cutting through the rag-tag Western Province midfield. The ball went right to Mangweni who swept inside Aplon as if he were not there and then bumped of Fondse twice his size and scored the try that gave the Blue Bulls a bonus point and a place at the top of the log.
It was a happy 70th birthday for the Blue Bulls. And there to see it was LM Smit, who played prop for Northern Transvaal on 18 April 1938, the first time that Northern Transvaal, as the Blue Bulls were then known, played a rugby match. Smit was at the game in his ancient blazer, now 96 years of age and longing for the day 70 years ago when the game was more open.
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Mametsa, W Kruger, Van Heerden, Mangweni
Cons: Steyn 4
Pens: Steyn 3
For Western Province:
Pens: Pietersen 2