Wayward Bulls tighten up to beat gritty Griquas

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 Cornal Hendricks of the Bulls during the Super Rugby Unlocked match between Vodacom Bulls and Tafel Lager Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on October 10, 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
Cornal Hendricks of the Bulls during the Super Rugby Unlocked match between Vodacom Bulls and Tafel Lager Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on October 10, 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

The official start to Jake White's revolution at Loftus stalled on the launchpad before it eventually spurted to life as the Bulls managed a nervy 30-23 win over Griquas in their Super Rugby Unlocked opener on Saturday night.

It was a wayward showing from the former World Cup-winning mentor's charges, who were certainly enterprising and varied for much of the game but lacked the cutting edge they showed in an impressive Super Fan Saturday pre-season outing a fortnight ago.

On a broader level, this stop-start affair was notable for both teams' problems with discipline, particularly at the breakdown.

With arbiter Marius van der Westhuizen adopting a zero-tolerance policy in terms of speeding up recycled possession, the Bulls, as the front foot team, took ages to get their timing right in terms of releasing the ball, leading to at least three promising attacking opportunities fizzling out.

They were also bedevilled by indifferent handling and a lack of accuracy in their attacking formations.

That suited plucky Griquas, who didn't come into the game with particularly high hopes, perfectly as they simply absorbed the pressure and, in general, took every point on offer from opposition mistakes. 

Their biggest reward in the first half was a well-worked try from former Western Force winger James Verity-Amm, which was complemented by a penalty from flyhalf and skipper George Whitehead.

Yet the Bulls seemed to have turned a corner when, with the siren having already sounded for half-time, they found enough continuity on attack for lock Ruan Nortje to dot down after a sublime slice of distribution by his fellow second-rower Jason Jenkins, who had an excellent game.

That deadlocked the scores at 10-all at the turnaround, with momentum clearly on the hosts' side.

Instead, the Bulls were hampered by a yellow card for eighthman Tim Agaba for a cynical infringement, and his absence proved profitable for the Peacock Blues, who scored eight points in that ten-minute period, including an opportunistic try for fullback Anthony Volmink off an intercept.

Spooked, the Bulls tightened up and landed a crucial psychological blow when their powerful scrum led to a penalty try, one compounded by Whitehead's unlucky sin-binning for not rolling away. 

When home skipper Arno Botha scored his side's third try, the matter was settled as they played out the rest of the match with a territorial game.

There was one final scare though when Verity-Amm pounced on a chip forward to dot down in the left-hand corner but his side's indiscipline meant the buffer was just too substantial.

Scorers:

Bulls 30 (10)

Tries: Ruan Nortje, penalty try, Arno Botha

Conversions: Morne Steyn (2)

Penalties: Steyn (3)

Griquas 23 (10)

Tries: James Verity-Amm (2), Anthony Volmink

Conversion: George Whithead

Penalties: Whitehead (2) 

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