The Bulls started the 2019 Super Rugby season with a breathtaking 40-3 victory over the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria.
Rosco Specman starred in his Super Rugby debut, scoring two scintillating tries straight out of his Blitzbokke locker as the Bulls secured a four-try bonus point win.
Specman brought the heat from his Blitzbokke days to Super Rugby in debut for the ages, in one of ‘Old World’ rugby’s fiercest and bitter rivalries.
Gods, this was a superhuman performance of speed, quick-feet and precision that rendered his Captain America kit useless – this was the Flash, a bolt from the blue for the Bulls of Pretoria.
Thor had gone missing en route to the ground.
The sevens flier was simply unstoppable as he ran riot; he chased every kick, harrying the catcher, made some big hits, and broke ankles with his turn of pace and killer step.
Duane Vermeulen was a powerhouse and Bulls skipper Lood de Jager, Captain Fantastic, if not America.
They dominated the contact areas with strong ball carrying. De Jager wrecked the Stormers lineout, which wilted in the shadows of Loftus.
Handré Pollard was sublime, setting up Jesse Kriel’s try with a deft lob-chip.
He put on an exhibition with the boot, both out of hand and from the tee, kicking eight from eight for a match-haul of 20 points.
Late for kickoff, late for everything.
Robbie Fleck’s men never stood a chance; they didn’t even bring their Super Hero costume to the derby.
In fact, they brought nothing; their lineout was terrible, handling average, and intensity, lacking.
They were just not up to it, and it showed. Someone who was, though, delivered a debut for the ages.
Specman’s first game since changing sevens for 15s was one that will reverberate forever; something not often seen in South Africa.
His teammate Pollard had one of THESE games against the All Blacks, but Aphiwe Dyantyi is the only player in recent times, to have this kind of sensational impact.
Pote Human might have seen it before in his previous capacity as an assistant coach to Heyneke Meyer’s great teams.
The Blitzbokke flyer terrorised the hapless Stormers; the only thing flair was their coach’s hair.
The magic happened as early as the fourth minute.
Specman left Dillyn Leyds and Wilco Louw for dead with a devastating sidestep, coming from a turnover at the lineout.
Specman gathered Jesse Kriel’s low pass before cutting back inside and racing away – it was an ankle breaker only seen in the NFL – or Christian Cullen.
Pollard added the extras before SP Marais reduced the score to four.
Both sides were using the new fad in rugby; the long grubber-kick behind the wings and away from the fullback that Eddie Jones has employed for England.
But this is a north versus south South African derby, and the big men came into play.
Schalk Brits was everywhere, displaying the kind of dynamism that made him a cult figure in England.
As for Vermeulen and De Jager. They were colossuses with the ball in hand.
De Jager seemed to have read the Stormers lineout playsheet, stealing throws, willy-nilly.
Vermeulen was rampaging his way through Cape Town Test Dummies, recapturing his form from early last season.
But, this was the Specman show.
The Bulls were building phases in the Stormers’ 10m when lightning struck twice.
Embrose Papier switched play to Warrick Gelant. The fullback slowed before playing a little pop-pass on his inside shoulder to the flying Specman.
It was a thing of beauty. The former Blitzbok hit the line and ghosted through.
He flew between prop Ali Vermaak and centre Ruhan Nel before slipping Leyds’ tackle.
Only the covering Jano Vermaak could catch him, tackling the No 15 short of the line.
But, it was to no avail as Specman promptly got to his feet, reached out and scored. Absolutely bloody marvellous!
The Bulls had found their mojo and they were paying homage to the great teams of old, combining bruising ball-carrying with expert finishing.
Some quick hands set up the next score from another lineout, involving Specman – again – taking a crash-ball. Quick ball was recycled and sent through the hands.
Brits produced a memorable show-and-go, selling Nel the fake before gliding through a gap and throwing a pass to Kriel, on the outside.
Kriel straightened Leyds and sent Johnny Kotze away for a well-worked try in the corner.
Rooi Rok Bokkie was playing, and Loftus was going crazy.
At 21-3 in the 25th-minute, the game was over.
Pollard conducts flyhalf Masterclass.
The game took off where it left off. Pollard, back to his best, found Kriel with a deft, lob chip-kick.
The flyhalf saw the space behind the Stormers’ backs and floated the ball, from boot to Kriel’s hands, in slow motion. Time stood still, so did the men in black.
The game was as good as dead. The Cape Town franchise did manage to stop the bleeding, but they kept giving away penalties.
This was down to the pressure of the Bulls forwards, who flooded the rucks and harangued the opposition into the dirt.
Pollard punished the Stormers with four second-half penalties, kicking the final penalty to put up the forty-burger against their old foes.
Specman could have had a hat-trick, but even superheroes have flaws.
Final score: Bulls 40 (21) Stormers 3 (3)
Tries – Specman (2), Kotze, Kriel
Pen – Pollard (4)
Con – Pollard (4)
Pen – Marais
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 1: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2: Egon Seconds
TMO: Marius Jonker
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jessie Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager (captain), 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Dylan Sage.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 JJ Engelbrecht, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 SP Marais, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan du Plessis