Rainbow Cup

Composed Bulls absorb Sharks' squeeze brilliantly to reach Rainbow Cup final

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Cornal Hendricks (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)
Cornal Hendricks (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)

Jake White's Bulls will have the opportunity to claim a third major trophy in six months after they reached the Rainbow Cup final with a 34-22 victory over the Sharks at Kings Park on Saturday night.

They will travel to Rovigo to face Benetton next weekend.

In a performance that brimmed with calmness and eventual class, the men from Pretoria overcame a first half where they were seriously discomforted to absorb the pressure and then took total control.

The build-up to the game was characterised by a minor controversy when the hosts had to ditch their plan to use their two Springbok props, Ox Nche and Thomas du Toit, off the bench due to national team protocols.

The Sharks had requested special permission to use the duo because they didn't have two other fully fit props.

However, Nche and Du Toit hadn't served their mandatory week's rest and the Bulls, who argued every other franchise was subject to the arrangement and did so, didn't budge.

That complication wasn't immediately apparent as the Sharks, with No 8 Phepsi Buthelezi and blindsider Thembelani Bholi at the heart of the effort, exposed numerous cracks in the Bulls defence and even at times dominated the physical exchanges.

That was exemplified by lock JJ van der Mescht's score from close range as their front-foot ball bore fruit following two early Morne Steyn penalties.

But, in what was going to be the theme of the evening, the Bulls played the fleeting, pressure moments far better.

With the Sharks on the attack again, some robust marking saw the visitors turn the ball over and allowed influential centre Cornal Hendricks to dot down from close range against the run of play.

A morale-boosting 13-10 lead ensued and White's charges duly proceeded to take full advantage.

Scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl's nifty box-kick put sufficient pressure on the home side for Steyn to attempt a drop-kick that was deflected wide.

The ensuing scrum saw fullback David Kriel surge through from close range.

The Sharks immediately replied with a sumptuous score for a quiet Siya Kolisi, when a brilliant off-load from Lukhanyo Am freed up space for winger and Blitzboks stalwart Werner Kok, who made the scoring pass.

Composure though has become a hallmark of this Bulls vintage and they proceeded to make the game more than safe.

First, wing Stravino Jacobs ran a beautiful line from an efficient set-move before their vaunted lineout delivered a few minutes later when second rower Janko Swanepoel scored a fourth try and secure his side's spot in the showpiece match.

The Sharks manfully tried to play themselves back into contention, dominating the final 15 minutes, but were undone by their own capriciousness and a Bulls pack that tore into their scrum eventually and secure vital breakdown triumphs.

Impressively, they did so even as Bok duo Marco van Staden and Trevor Nyakane were shown yellow cards for repeated infringements. 


Sharks - 22 (10)

Tries: JJ van der Mescht, Siya Kolisi, Anthony Volmink

Conversions: Curwin Bosch, Manie Libbok

Penalty: Bosch

Bulls - 34 (13)

Try: Cornal Hendricks, David Kriel, Stravino Jacobs, Janko Swanepoel

Conversion: Morne Steyn (4)

Penalties: Steyn (2)

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