The Bulls suffered a chastening unseating from the top of the South African Conference when a previously winless Chiefs side taught them a lesson in their Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld yesterday.
Led by marauding fullback Damian McKenzie and a typically physical skipper Brodie Retallick, Colin Cooper’s men made a mockery of both their last-place standing on the competition’s overall log and the Bulls’ South African title contender status with a shock seven tries to two victory.
McKenzie – playing at fullback, where he had more space to weave his magic – led the charge by kicking nine of his 10 kicks at goal for 21 points in the match, while Retallick was the embodiment of the visitors’ physicality, which also unsettled the hosts.
Going into this game, the visitors hadn’t won at Loftus Versfeld in 18 years.
But it was they who began the game as if they had the winning streak in their favour.
With the Bulls a full yard off the pace and disjointed following their bye last weekend, the Chiefs came to play, matching anything the hosts had at the set pieces and as belligerent as they were clinical at the breakdown.
The score after the firstquarter was three-all with the Bulls defence having held against the visitors’ promising phase play.
By the end of the next 11 minutes, they had scored 14 unanswered points thanks to two converted tries by winger Solomon Alaimalo and inside centre Alex Nankivell.
Alaimalo’s try was courtesy of a quick Chiefs line-out followed by an uncontested kick and chase, the ball being recycled to the free winger on the left hand touchline, while Nankivell’s score was testament to their intelligence on the ball and offloading in the tackle.
For their part, the hosts simply couldn’t play their own game, the hallmarks of which have been playing for territory and taking points when on offer.
Not only were they pinned in their half pretty much throughout the match, they kept kicking the ball down McKenzie’s throat, and the All Black kept returning it with interest by launching the raids on which the Chiefs’ attacks were built.
And when the visitors pulled an All Blacks by scoring either side of half-time through skipper Retallick, the feeling was that the game was over as a contest with the score on 31-6, though the hosts still hoped for travel fatigue and altitude to come to their rescue.
The hosts did up their intensity and scored in the 63rd minute, but, by then, the gap between the two sides was so massive, the visitors could already run the game down by scoring three more tries and notching up their half century.
Sharks 28 - 14 Rebels