The Bulls were forced to work hard for a 38-32 victory over a spirited Lions side in their pre-season clash at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
If you had concentrated on what the players were doing, you would not have guessed how hot it was in this mid-afternoon match in Soweto. It's a massive stadium and the cheerful crowd kept to the shade, leaving acres of empty seats. All of those who stayed away missed a highly competitive, highly entertaining match which the Bulls won to take the big cup for the Gauteng Sports Challenge.
There was some relief for the players in the use of water breaks and rolling substitutions.
It was a home match for the Bulls but played in Soweto with several political people present. Before the game the teams lined up and were introduced to a four-man party of dignitaries. Then they stood to the memory of Louis Luyt, a great rugby man who died recently.
The match also commemorated the 75th birthday of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union, born the Northern Transvaal RU. On 18 April 1938, captained by Danie Craven, the Northern Transvaal played Transvaal in their very first provincial match.
It took just 50 seconds for the scoring to start. The Lions won messy ball from a tackle/ruck and made it even messier. Tall blond Jean Cook footed ahead, the Bulls got possession and Jan Serfontein scurried over in the right corner.
After the kick-off the Bulls kicked out, Andries Coetzee threw in quickly to Marnitz Boshoff who dropped a soaring goal. 5-3 and play was not yet three minutes old.
The Bulls went through phases - left, right and left again where fullback Jürgen Visser had an overlap and scored in the left corner with Sampie Mastriet spare outside of him. Tian Schoeman converted from touch. 12-3 after 14 minutes.
At this stage the Bulls threatened to run away with the match. Lionel Mapoe went over but the referee consulted the TMO who told him that Visser's pass to Mapoe had been forward. Undeterred the Bulls won a Lions' line-out, bashed and went wide left where Serfontein forced a halfgap and flicked an underarm pass to Grant Hattingh who scored against his old union. 19-3 after 26 minutes.
But now the Lions came roaring back. from a tackle/ruck, Coetzee threw a dummy and sped past Tian Schoeman. He burst ahead. The Lions played wide to the left where big Franco Mostert forced his way over millimetres inside touch-in-goal. Boshoff, who had been kicking poorly, converted from the touch-line. 19-10 after 30 minutes.
Anthony Volmink, who was full of running, sped down the left on a long break, drew Visser and sent Jaco Kriel heading for the line. The flank had some 25 metres to run and Hattingh and Visser set on stopping him but somehow he scored right in the corner, and Boshoff again converted. 19-17 after 34 minutes.
The game was on.
The Lions conceded a string of penalties from now on. One against Coetzee was goaled by Tian Schoeman to make the half-time score 22-17.
Early in the second half Tian Schoeman and Boshoff traded penalties. 25-20 after 44 minutes.
Then the Lions went ahead. Ross Cronjé is sometimes not there to collect the ball at a tackle/ruck, which was why Coetzee was there to make the break that brought about Mostert's try. So in a carbon copy Volmink was there, picked up, dummied inside Tian Schoeman and raced away. The speedster swerved past Visser and scored. 27-25 after 48 minutes.
But Tian Schoeman got the lead back with a penalty and Handré Pollard increased it. 31-27 with 12 minutes to play.
The Lions found energy and attacked in phases but the Bulls countered with phases of their own and Mastriet sent Visser stretching for the line in the left corner. Pollard, last year's schoolboy, converted from touch.. 38-27 with five minutes to play.
Again the Lions found energy and their energy got a boost from three penalties. The final siren had sounded, when they tapped the third penalty and Kriel burst past Cornell Hess to score.
The Bulls received the cup and enjoyed it but a lot of credit must go to the Lions. The Bulls were preparing for the Super 12 but the Lions are on a long preparation for a Promotion/relegation match in July.
Man of the match: It was a match with lots of running and two young players stood out - Anthony Volmink of the Lions and our Man of the Match - clever, strong, intuitive Jan Serfontein of the Bulls.
For the Lions:
Tries: Mostert, Kriel 2, Volmink
Cons: Boshoff 3
For the Bulls:
Tries: Serfontein, Visser 2, Hattingh
Cons: Schoeman 2, Pollard
Pens: Schoeman 3, Pollard
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Nicolaas Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 JJ Breet, 19 Warwick Tecklenberg, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Ruhan Nel.
Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Deon Stegmann (captain), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Hencus van Wyk, 18 Wiaan Liebenberg, 19 Cornell Hess, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Jacques du Plessis.
Referee: Sindile Mayende
Assistant referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Jan Venter
TMO: Johan Greeff