The Bulls faced the Sharks in the only Super Rugby Unlocked match on Saturday after the cancellation of the early fixture between the Lions and the Cheetahs.
Super Rugby Unlocked: Bulls vs Sharks – team news
The Sharks welcomed back fit-again Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi to their starting line-up for their third-round clash with the Vodacom Bulls.
Nkosi, a member of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup-winning squad, started in place of JP Pietersen. Upfront, Kerron van Vuuren (hooker) and Henco Venter (loose forward) – both fit to play again – are set to come off the bench, alongside Yaw Penxe who is on loan from the Southern Kings.
Big Marcel van der Merwe gothis first Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked start since returning to Pretoria from France earlier this year.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has made a few changes to his team for this clash after their narrow defeat against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last weekend.
Upfront, Van der Merwe and Elrigh Louw take over from Trevor Nyakane and Arno Botha respectively, while White also made a number of changes to the Vodacom Bulls’ backline, adding some pace and excitement to their back division.
Super Rugby Unlocked: Bulls 41-14 Sharks – relive the action
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Super Rugby Unlocked: Bulls 41-14 Sharks
This match was always likely to be decided by the smallest mistakes and in the first half it was the Bulls who took greater advantage.
Curwin Bosch gave the Sharks the lead from the tee after Morne Steyn had missed an early shot at goal.
Steyn would eventually get the Bulls on the board but not before they turned down a goalable kick to setup a lineout only to be repelled by the Sharks.
The Bulls Flyhalf levelled the scores in the 19th minute of the game but shortly afterwards the Bulls infringed and Bosch made it 6-3.
But the complexion of the match changed when a piece of brilliance from Stedman Gans broke down the Sharks resolute defence. He stepped his way through the Sharks beating three men before surging over for the first try.
There was then some slick attacking play as Ivan Zyl sniped and offloaded to Louw before he set Marco van Staden in for the try under the sticks.
Bosch closed the gap to 17-9 with another penalty goal five minutes from half-time but the Sharks desperately needed to find a way to mount some offence.
After the break the Bulls continued to do well in the setpieces and they would score early in the second half.
The Bulls drove over to allow Marco van Staden to score his second and stretch their lead to fifteen points.
The Sharks finally mounted some offence soon after and Dylan Richardson would power over after a succession of penalties.
The Bulls showed better execution though and scored some great team tries like the one that appeared to kill off the game just before the hour mark.
Steyn found Arendse with a grubber, and he then set Gans in with a slick offload after taking out two defenders.
The Bulls then repelled multiple Sharks attack with no damage to the scoreboard and the visitors appeared to lose heart with 15 minutes remaining.
The home side effectively applied the strangle and kept play in the Sharks half until the match was beyond the visitors.
The Bulls muscled over for a fifth try scored by Marco Janse van Vuuren.
In the latter stages of the game many players grew concerned about a storm closing in.
The Bulls scored after the hooter with the Sharks rolling the dice again, but the Bulls’ Embrose Papier read the move and sprinted in to score making it 41-14.
Super Rugby Unlocked: Teams
15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
15 Manie Libbok, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Werner Kok, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Phepsi Buthelezi, 6 James Venter, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Dylan Richardson, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Yaw Penxe.