2018 u19 Championship result:
Bulls u19 33 EP u19 31
It’s one of those scores that you may have to read twice before it really sinks in and you start to wonder how the hell did that happen?
The Bulls were the home team as well.
Winless EP had been averaging a defeat margin of roughly 65 points per match before this game, so this was easily their best match of the season.
Part of the explanation is that Bulls coach Nollis Marais rested many of his first choice players for this midweek clash.
In the end the Bulls achieved their main goal which was to get a bonus point win. They probably wouldn’t have minded an ugly win but there must have been an uncomfortable feeling before the final whistle. The Bulls now need another bonus point win from their last game against the Leopards to secure a home semifinal.
Last Saturday proved to be a different story for the young Bulls in Durban in their top of the table clash against the log leading Sharks.
The ding-dong battle could have gone either way but it was the Sharks that triumphed 34-24 in the end.
The Sharks have shown tremendous composure in their big games so far this season and this one was no different. The match was won due to the “Black and White” making better use of the point scoring chances that came their way, while the Bulls squandered a few golden opportunities that proved costly in the end.
The Sharks drew first blood. A useful rolling maul led to a blindside attack and wing Caleb Dingaan did ever so well to wrestle a ball that had been chipped over the top away from his opponents before turning on the afterburners and finishing.
The Bulls responded with a pearler of their own. Penalty, lineout, good driving maul formed the build-up. Inside centre Luke Rossouw then showed once again why he’s been turning heads in that position. The midfielder looked like he was about to be contained before he jinked and beat the tackler with ease, opening a path to the tryline. Flyhalf Vaughn Isaacs who had plied his trade with EP u19 last season, added the extras to hand the Bulls a 7-5 lead.
Lock JJ van der Mescht got onto the scoresheet for the Sharks not long after the home team turned a high tackle penalty into a lineout setpiece platform and did the damage from close range. Halfback Sanele Nohamba slotted the difficult conversion to put the Sharks further in front at 12-7, which is how it stayed until halftime.
The hosts had missed a few chances to turn redzone possession into points during the half, with passing accuracy letting them down more than once.
During the early stages of the second half poorly worked exit strategies compounded the pressure on the Sharks and it eventually took its toll. The Bulls forwards did their part with replacement flank Reinhard Venter being one to make a meaningful contribution with ball-in-hand. Their efforts culminated in a converted try for replacement scrumhalf Ruhan Viviers, who was making his debut after a long injury layoff. Viviers showed very few signs of rustiness as his creative energy on attack might have earned him the hero of the day award, had the Bulls capitalised from it. He was the architect of a move that opened up the normally reliable Sharks “D” only for a teammate to make a cut-out pass forward while the backs were queuing up on the overlap. Not long thereafter tall lock Janco Swanepoel produced an outstanding carry but opted to look for support on his left while Viviers was unmarked on the right shoulder and would almost certainly have scored a five-pointer. It all proved to be very decisive missed opportunities.
From the Bulls leading 14-12, the two kickers then traded blows, causing the lead to change hands two more times and upping the score to 17-15 in favour of the Pretoria based team.
Two vital plays in quick succession then put the Sharks firmly in command.
First outside centre Muller du Plessis read the situation perfectly and intercepted a promising looking backline attack move. With his speed, no one was going to catch the SA Sevens Blitzbok. 22-17.
A couple of minutes late, from within his own half, Sharks no.8 Pepsi Buthelezi got the necessary blindside separation to be able to take on his would-be tackler in a one-on-one situation. His strength on his feet got him through the tackle, setting up a two-on-one, draw-and-pass situation which Pepsi didn’t make an Israel Folau versus Argentina of. Instead textbook stuff set up his Durban High School alumnus wing Asande Kunene for the try near the left corner. 27-17.
The Sharks were not done. About eight minutes later they extended their lead once more. Replacement pivot Boeta Chamberlain can take a bow for a couple of good punts from penalties awarded to put his side firmly on attack. The Bulls had a man sinbinned during this passage as well. At lineout time, hooker Fez Mbatha and lock Lappies Labuschagne combined well once again to catch the Bulls off guard, with flank Vian Fourie crossing the white chalk in the end.
A match that had seemed ever so close in most facets, now had the Sharks leading 34-17.
A consolation try of sorts was scored by Bulls no.8 Philip Potgieter, with lock/loose-forward Carl Els coming up with an impressive carry in the lead-up.
By achieving this ninth win in the regular season, the 2018 u19 campaign has become the Sharks’ most successful one since the competition was changed from a single to a two round affair in 2010.
This was also the first time the Sharks had ever achieved a regular season home and away win double against the Bulls in u19 Championship history. Prior to this year, the Bulls with five doubles over the Sharks to their credit, had never even lost a first round match to their coastal rivals.