Blue Bulls win Currie Cup
Pretoria - The Blue Bulls won the Currie Cup at Loftus when they beat the Free State Cheetahs 36-24 in a lively and high-scoring final in which they controlled matters from the outset and were never behind.
The win for Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, replaced as Lions coach three years ago after a string of disappointing results, was special and gives him the double after winning the Currie Cup and the Super 14 in a single year - and the franchise Bulls and the Blue Bulls of the union made this a day to remember in Pretoria.
The Blue Bulls were simply better than the visitors from the first minutes when they took a 7-0 lead to the end, with a few lapses in concentration letting in a game and at times competitive Free State Cheetahs side for three tries which kept them in the hunt.
The Blue Bulls held the Free State in the scrums and didn't allow them the advantage in this facet and did more than their share at the breakdowns where the Bulls' teamwork nullified the work of Heinrich Brussow on the ground.
They also had the better of the lineouts and, all in all, showed their experience with a more professional performance.
Man of the match Fourie du Preez had a major hand in all three tries and must now be arguably the best scrumhalf in South Africa's history.
It was only three minutes before Du Preez put a corner kick to the right into the hands of right wing Francois Hougaard after it looked like a warranted penalty try following the ruck after Derick Kuun was tackled by Lionel Mapoe on the line.
The Blue Bulls seemed on a cruise to the biggest Currie Cup final score yet when they were ahead 24-0 after 25 minutes with three tries on the board.
But the Cheetahs, renowned for their fightback in the second half this season, came back with two excellent tries to creep to 24-14 after 35 minutes - and the game was on. A drop goal by Morne Steyn on the stroke of half-time saw the Blue Bulls go into the tunnel 27-14 ahead.
The Cheetahs' tries came after only three visits to the Blue Bulls' 22, with the first ending in a scrum turnover for the Blue Bulls when it seemed the Cheetahs were on their way to the tryline. And, in fact, it was after this particular scrum, with Dewald Potgieter making good ground and Morne Steyn punishing the Cheetahs with a huge kick, that the Blue Bulls' second try came.
The Cheetahs, in their own quarter, kicked ahead, Pierre Spies fielded the up-and-under 30 metres from his line and spread it wide. After some good handling scrumhalf Du Preez got it to Bryan Habana with what may have been a slightly forward pass, but the damage was done and the speedster scored his first try in his last match for the Blue Bulls.
A mere two minutes later, on the halfway line and in the centre of the field, Du Preez underlined his class with a pin-point kick into open space.
Habana had enough time to wait for the bounce before he cantered over for his second try, and with the third successive conversion from Steyn it was 24-0.
It was then that the Cheetahs, winning a scrum after a brief period on the Blue Bulls' line, took it wide for Frans Viljoen to score, and four minutes later they added to their earlier converted try with a quickly taken penalty for Corne Uys to score.
With Jacques-Louis Potgieter converting, it was 24-14 until, right on the stroke of halftime, Steyn dropped it over with all the time in the world to make it 27-14 at halftime.
Three minutes after the resumption, Steyn added a penalty (30-14), but then the Free State struck back with a try by lock Nico Breedt converted by Potgieter (30-21).
A drop goal by Potgieter saw the visitors creep even closer at 30-24, after 48 minutes. With the Blue Bulls retaining their territorial advantage, Steyn put them nine points ahead after 54 minutes at 33-24.
The Blue Bulls now had a grip on the game, and despite a miss by Steyn in the 57th minute they were in control. He made no mistake from far out 10 minutes later, and at 36-24 the Cheetahs had it all to do.
Tries: Bryan Habana (2), Francois Hougaard
Conversions: Morne Steyn (3)
Penalties: Steyn (4)
Drop goal: Steyn
Tries: Frans Viljoen, Corne Uys, Nico Breedt
Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3)
Drop goal: Potgieter