Bulls back on winning trail after horror tour
May 3, 2014
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The Bulls put a disastrous Australasia tour behind them with a 26-21 win over the Cheetahs in Pretoria on Saturday. Victory in a South African derby at Loftus Versfeld stadium kept the three-time former champions 10th on the southern hemisphere provincial championship standings.
But the Pretoria outfit have 24 points, only two less than New Zealand's Crusaders, who occupy the sixth and final play-offs place on the table. A potential disadvantage for the Bulls is that they have five matches to play while some rivals have seven fixtures remaining.
Should the South Africans fail, they will regret defeats by the Hurricanes and Highlanders in New Zealand and New South Wales Waratahs and Western Force in Australia during April. From a possible 20 points, the 2007, 2009 and 2010 title-holders secured just four for losing the four matches by seven or fewer points.
The Bulls returned to winning ways against the Cheetahs (video only available in Australia)
"We are still in the hunt for a play-offs place," said Bulls veteran Victor Matfield, the stand-in skipper with fellow lock Flip van der Merwe suspended. "A few try-scoring opportunities were missed during the first half, but we kept on fighting to secure four crucial points."
Cheetahs hooker and skipper Adriaan Strauss lamented conceding numerous second-half penalties after his side turned over 18-9 ahead on a cool South African autumn evening.
"Victory slipped from our grasp in the second half when we gave away too many penalties," he conceded.
Lock Paul Willemse and hooker Callie Visagie scored a try each for the Bulls and fly-half Handre Pollard converted both and kicked two penalties. The other points came from a penalty each by full-back Jurgen Visser - when Pollard was sin binned during the first half - and replacement fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter.
Centre Johann Sadie and wing Raymond Rhule touched down for the Cheetahs and fly-half Elgar Watts kicked one conversion and two penalties from five shots at goal. Johan Goosen, an early second-half substitute for Watts, marked his return from injury with a penalty.
A losing bonus point lifted Cheetahs to 15 points, the same total as compatriots the Stormers, but the Bloemfontein outfit occupy last place because of fewer victories.
Pollard and Watts exchanged penalties before a Sadie intercept sent him clear for a try midway through the opening half. Watts converted from in front of the posts and penalties from Visser and Pollard narrowed the gap to four points.
Rhule dived over on the stroke of half-time, finishing off in the corner a sweeping handling move involving Springboks full-back Willie le Roux. Willemse barged across the try-line on 45 minutes and Pollard converted before Goosen succeeded with his first pot at goal. Another Bulls push-over try, with Visagie touching down, was converted by Pollard for a 23-21 lead and Potgieter closed the scoring through a penalty 12 minutes from time.