Nelspruit - It was another tough day at the office for the Vodacom Blue Bulls as they managed to eke out a 16-12 (half-time 10-0) victory over the Ford Pumas in their Absa Currie Cup match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday.
The Bulls can now enjoy a relaxed weekend on the farm having lifted themselves off the bottom of the log, but it was an arduous, punishing slog to overcome a Pumas side that played with tremendous passion.
The Bulls opened the scoring in the 16th minute when wing Bjorn Basson, who ran challenging lines all night, burst through the tackle of Pumas flyhalf Ricardo Croy and then weaved his way over the line.
Flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff added the conversion, plus a 24th-minute penalty to give the Bulls a 10-0 lead.
That was the half-time score, but the Pumas had been more competitive than the scoreline suggested, the many good things they did being spoilt by stupid basic mistakes.
But the winless men from Mpumalanga weren't about to lie down and accept their fate, remembering, of course, that they had beaten the Bulls in the same stadium last year.
Good running by the Pumas from the kick-off brought them near enough for Croy to kick a penalty in the 44th minute, and, seven minutes later, a turnaround in fortunes at the scrum saw Australian referee Andrew Lees espy a Bulls offence and Croy knocked over a second penalty (10-6).
The Bulls, for all their possession, did not make enough use of their ball and one of the reasons why was their tendency to kick the ball away needlessly on attack.
One such ill-judged kick by Boshoff was blocked by the boot of livewire Pumas flank and captain Corne Steenkamp and the under-pressure Bulls then conceded a ruck penalty, which Croy converted (10-9).
The tables would be turned again in the scrums when the Bulls earned a penalty on the hour mark, which Boshoff kicked to stretch the Bulls lead to 13-9, but Croy quickly replied with a penalty of his own after fine running, handling and support play by the Pumas led to a penalty when Deon Stegmann went off his feet at a ruck (13-12).
But the Bulls nerves would finally be settled with just a minute to play as replacement flyhalf Louis Fouche made it a debut to remember as he slotted a marvellous drop goal from 35 metres out to seal victory.
But it was certainly no quick and easy kill for the Bulls and there remains a long way to go for them to be considered serious Currie Cup contenders.
Ford Pumas - Penalties: Ricardo Croy (4).
Vodacom Blue Bulls - Try: Bjorn Basson. Conversion: Marnitz Boshoff. Penalties: Boshoff (2). Drop goal: Louis Fouche'.
15 Carl Bezuidenhout, 14 Deon Scholtz, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Tian Meyer, 11 MJ Mentz, 10 Ricardo Croy, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Doppies le Roux, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corne Steenkamp (captain), 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Eduan van der Walt, 3 Ashley Buys, 2 Pellow van der Westhuizen, 1 Dawie Steyn
Substitutes: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 De-Jay Terblanche, 18 Rudi Mathee, 19 RW Kember, 20 Hendrik van der Nest, 21 Tiaan Marx, 22 Johan Jackson
15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Zane Kirchner, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Gary Botha, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Dustin Jinka, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Francois Venter