The Cell C Sharks opened our account in the 2018 Currie Cup competition with a deeply satisfying and rather emphatic 26-10 victory over the visiting Blue Bulls at a warm Jonsson KINGS PARK on Saturday afternoon.
The coaching staff and indeed players will look back at the performance that gained the result with immense satisfaction.
After seeing off an early scoring opportunity from the Bulls, a great break then chip and chase from Curwin Bosch saw us on the front foot before the ball was recycled through numerous phases before prop Juan Schoeman barged his way through to the tryline for the opening score. Robert du Preez converted for a 7-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes.
The Bulls did pull back with a penalty a few minutes later and then Jessie Kriel was the man in possession when the Bulls scored their first try on the quarter hour as the visitors took the lead, with the extras via the boot.
The game came alive in thrilling fashion after the first quarter as the Bulls patiently worked their way from their half to a metre short of our tryline before the ball was lost forward. We recycled it out wide quickly and the forwards combined well initially before Louis Schreuder took the ball upfield and then waited for support, finding in in the form of Bosch who was too quick for the retreating defence. Du Preez added the two and we were back in the lead.
The Bulls were by no means out of it but their impatience kept costing them as they would work their way into dangerous positions, only to lose the ball on attack. Failing to hang on to the ball was costing them, but the Cell C Sharks were gaining much greater benefit.
It was after a period of sustained possession, albeit not making inroads, before the ball was sent out wide to Kobus van Wyk who danced his way down the touchline, evading defenders before scoring our third try after the Bulls failed once more to turn opportunity into points.
Du Preez converted for a 21-10 lead as the first period wound its way towards half-time, allowing us to take a well-deserved 11 point lead into the break.
The forwards really need to take a bow in this game. They delivered a truly heroic performance in every facet. If they were defending, they were huge and if they were attacking, they ran with intent. When it was time for the set-piece, they scrummed the Bulls into submission (and numerous penalties) while they stole their fair share of lineout ball.
There was a moment of fear as Jessie Kriel scored a try, but earlier it had appeared the in the clearance kick, the Bulls receiver had carried the ball out. The TMO ruled no try and we could breath again.
Within a matter of seconds of being on the field and in his first touch of the ball in Currie Cup rugby,
Aphelele Fassi latched on to a loose ball after the Bulls had once again lost the ball forward on attack. Cameron Wright had sent it upfield and the Bulls defence couldn’t contain the ball.
At 26-10 with 15 minutes of the game remaining, we appeared to have wrapped the result up, and the win appeared to be confirmed in the 70th minute when Fassi, with only his second touch, was fed the ball 45m out and again was way too fast for the defence. But the TMO was called into action and ruled that the ball was passed forward to the debutant.
Ultimately, the Bulls will look back on their conversion rate with severe disappointment. An 18 to six handling error stat tells a story of missed opportunities that won’t please their coach. Conversely, for a first match of the tournament, our low error rate must earn a big thumbs up.