For the sake of their mental wellbeing the British and Irish Lions had better not have caught a glimpse of last night’s blockbuster.
Their tour of SA starts in a fortnight and the sight of what South African rugby has in store for them was displayed in brutal terms by the Sharks and Bulls here yesterday.
They tore lumps out of each other and by the time the dust had settled, the Bulls marched back to Pretoria in the knowledge that they will host a Vodacom Super14 semifinal (against the Crusaders on Saturday).
Jeff Farraday writes for the Times Online that the vanquished Sharks will lament their spectacular demise in the second half of the campaign.
The Bulls though won a contest in which fortunes ebbed and flowed, but in which brutal intensity remained constant.
With a pack that stood their ground, it was up to Morne Steyn to provide the difference and his three conversions and two drop goals got the Bulls home — just.
It was amazing how these teams summoned the will and physical endeavour to go at each other in the way they did.
The Bulls won because they held their nerve and kept their shape and form when it mattered. In the face of a spirited Sharks second-half assault, packed with power and purpose, the Bulls stood firm .
Bakkies Botha was the Bulls’ agent provocateur inside the first 10 minutes, when he hit Ryan Kankowski in the face.
JP Nel, another habitual offender, used his stiff arm, only to be sanctioned by referee Craig Joubert’s outstretched arm and a 10-minute stint in the bin.
Deon Stegmann frustrated the hosts with his foraging on the ground, to the point where he, too, incurred the wrath of Joubert.
Behind their steady pack, Du Preez gave his team direction with sniping runs and the judicious use of his boot.
The Sharks opted for all-out attack and although they cannot be faulted for their effort in the second half, they will wonder how they strayed in the first.
This was never going to be a game of half-measures — the stakes were too high — and while the Sharks played with the intent which the occasion demanded, their over-eagerness bedevilled their execution.
Bristling intent was simply not going to be enough against a Bulls side that in the second half of the season acquired a rare skill — closing the deal when presented with the chance.
As steady as Stefan Terblanche was under the high ball and as inventive as he, JP Pietersen and Adi Jacobs were on the attack, the Bulls always seemed to have a little in store.
While the Sharks outscored the Bulls by four tries to three, Steyn’s boot not only kept his team in the hunt, but in the ascendancy.
His two drop goals were priceless and the Sharks will perhaps ask themselves why they spurned so many potential punts at goal.
In the other Super 14 semifinal, the Chiefs, who ended second on the log, will host the third-placed Hurricanes in Hamilton.Tweet