Fouché boots Bulls to victory
Pretoria - Flyhalf Louis Fouche' scored a fine solo try and kicked 17 points as the Vodacom Blue Bulls beat an inaccurate Ford Pumas side 47-12 (halftime 28-7) at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
The Pumas were full of fire and effort, but made too many basic mistakes and left too many gaps in defence for a highly-motivated Bulls side that wanted to reward their few faithful supporters that turned out on a nasty evening in Pretoria - chilly with a blustery wind and some rain.
It has been a tough season for the Bulls, but the bonus-point win lifts them into the top four on the log and shifts the pressure on to Western Province in the race for the semifinals.
The Bulls forwards were superb, seemingly oblivious to pain as they repelled a highly-physical Pumas side, dominating the collisions and allowing their backs plenty of front-foot ball. The home side scored three tries in the first half, but rather ran aground in a scrappy third quarter, before scoring three more tries between the 15th and 25th minutes.
The Bulls opened the scoring in the sixth minute as prop Rossouw de Klerk made a strong run and when he was brought to ground, the ball was recycled quickly and lock Flip van der Merwe charged through several tacklers to score.
Fouche' converted and then added two excellent penalties in the swirling, gusty wind to put the Bulls 13-0 ahead after 18 minutes.
It had been all Bulls in the opening quarter, but the Pumas made a rare visit to the opposition 22 count when their dominant scrum won a free kick. Eighthman Doppies le Roux took a quick tap and charged forward before handing the ball over to flank Jaco Bouwer, who exploded straight through the defence to score under the poles, giving flyhalf Coenie van Wyk an easy conversion (13-7).
But Fouche' almost immediately struck back with his exquisite try. The 21-year-old chipped ahead, Pumas scrumhalf Shaun Venter hesitated, allowing Fouche' to hack ahead and then re-gather the ball and score under the poles, his conversion a formality (20-7).
Eighthman CJ Stander then also scored a fine individual try as he took a pass from a lineout won by lock Juandre Kruger, burst straight through the set-piece, jinked away from a couple of defenders and then stormed over for a try that was a wonderful combination of power and speed.
Fouche's touchline conversion was wide, but the final say in the first half would be his as he knocked over a penalty on the stroke of halftime (28-7).
The third quarter would be a rather ugly arm-wrestle, with the Bulls managing to score just one try, centre Francois Venter, who had a marvellous game, knifing through three tacklers to score, Fouche' converting (35-7).
Pumas prop Ashley Buys had already been yellow-carded as he killed the ball at a ruck, after a series of spoiling offences by the visitors; and when lock Boela Serfontein was also yellow-carded - for a clothes-hanger tackle - in the 61st minute, the Bulls quickly capitalised on their two-man advantage, replacement flank Arno Botha scoring from a rolling maul after the penalty had been kicked to touch.
Although Fouche's conversion was off the upright, the Pumas trailed 7-40 and were getting desperate. A flatfooted attempt by a stationary backline to throw the ball across the field was predictably disastrous as wing Bjorn Basson picked off an easy intercept try, converted by Fouche' (47-7).
There were still 15 minutes left in the match and the floodgates could really have opened, but one thing the Pumas do not lack is heart and they were the last to score, a consolation effort in the 67th minute. The inspirational Bouwer burst from a ruck and passed to lock Marius Coetzer, who held off a couple of would-be tacklers before using his long arms to dot the ball down in the in-goal area.
The Bulls were good value for their win, their forwards bossing the contact points and performing well in the lineouts, while the backs were efficient in defence and slick on attack.
Vodacom Blue Bulls - Tries: Flip van der Merwe, Louis Fouche', CJ Stander, Francois Venter, Arno Botha, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Fouche' (4). Penalties: Fouche' (3).
Ford Pumas - Tries: Jaco Bouwer, Marius Coetzer. Conversion: Coenie van Wyk.