The Bulls edged the Cheetahs 20-14 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, claiming their third win of the season in another bruising South African derby.
This game was more graft than craft but, the home team fought back twice; from 3-11 down and then 10-14 with 13 minutes left to play, thanks to Jesse Kriel’s late try and Niel Marais’s boot.
Both sides had only won two games this season and it showed on the highveld with attacking play at a premium.
The game was littered with errors and one-dimensional attacking play. Paul Schoeman opened the scoring with a try from a maul.
In the sixth minute, from a lineout, the Cheetahs set up a driving maul. Schoeman shifted, peeled right and crossed the whitewash with the help of Torsten van Jaarsveld.
Marais could not kick the conversion but, he did extend his team’s lead with a tenth-minute penalty.
Tian Schoeman put the Bulls on the scoreboard in the 25th minute but Marais added a second penalty to keep the gap at eight points as the teams went into the change rooms for the half-time break.
Midway through the second period, both coaches started to empty their benches and it was a replacement that sparked the comeback for the home team.
After some sustained pressure inside the Free State side’s 22 Jacques Potgieter, coming around the corner of the ruck, crashed over.
The substitute took a crash-ball from Piet van Zyl and two defenders with him and give the home support some belief.
Schoeman’s conversion made it a one-point ball game going into the final quarter. However, Marais’ third penalty of the afternoon, extended the Cheetahs’ lead to four.
Nollis Marais’ men were gaining the momentum though and soon reduced the gap to a single point when Schoeman’s penalty made it 13-14 with 12 minutes to play.
As the clock ticked down, the Bulls counter-attacked from deep. Ulengo made the break, offloaded to Burger Odendaal in support.
The centre charged forward, drew the defender and passed to Kriel. The Springbok still had work to do; he stepped inside two covering defenders and ran away to score under the posts.
Schoeman’s conversion pushed the Bulls’ lead to six, meaning the Cheetahs would need a converted try to win the game. They could not and the Bulls held on for the win.
Final Score: Bulls 20 (3) Cheetahs 14 (11)
Tries – Potgieter, Kriel
Pen – T. Schoeman (2)
Con – T. Schoeman (2)
Tries – P. Schoeman
Pen – N. Marais (3)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 2: AJ Jacobs
TMO: Willie Vos
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Nick de Jager, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Jacques Potgieter, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Franco Naude.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Uzair Cassiem, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga