Polokwane - With both sides taking the ball wide from the outset, the Bulls’ Blue team - in effect their A-side - beat a plucky Lions Red team 42-12 on Saturday, scoring five tries to two in a warm-up match ahead of the Super 14 competition.
The Lions were not totally outplayed, despite the scoreline, and the Bulls were undoubtedly good value for their win. The Lions made a real match of it despite never leading - and more importantly, there was plenty for their director of coaching, Dick Muir, and his assistants to work from as a base for this season.
Two of the Bulls’ five tries came in the dying minutes and the Lions were denied on three occasions when they squandered tries through poor handling.
It must also be remembered that this was not the Lions’ best team, and despite their 25-3 defeat in the early match, there were enough individual performances to show that they can further strengthen their best XV.
They scrummed well, were competitive at the breakdown and the backs displayed some good skills, with Emerging Springbok Deon van Rensburg’s pass to set Wandile Mjekevu free for his try probably the individual highlight of the game - and that’s taking into account the cross kick by the Bulls' Morne Steyn after a quickly taken penalty that ended with John Mametsa scoring.
Todd Clever gave his all and may just have solved the problem of Willem Alberts' availability for the foreseeable future as a battle over his contract is waged with the Sharks.
But as good as Clever was, Pedrie Wannenburg was equally impressive for the Bulls. He set up a try, had a hand in another and linked throughout until he was replaced in the last 10 minutes.
Derick Kuun showed how well he can play the flanker's role - and generally the teamwork from the Bulls, even with seven Springboks not considered for various reasons, was simply too good for a Lions side that showed promise but will have to find their feet within the next two weeks.
** In the early match between the two franchises, the Bulls’ B-side, playing as the White team, scored three tries in a dreary affair which they won 25-3 against a mix-and-match Lions side.
The first half was uninteresting and mistakes abounded. After the break the quality of rugby was a little better, but it remained a disjointed affair.
The early game lacked structure. It was more obvious on the Lions side with a number of newcomers to their squad trying to find one another while the Bulls' unity from playing in the same structure last year made a difference to their cohesion.
There were nevertheless some good individual performances on both sides with double try-scorer Devin Oosthuizen and Dries van Schalkwyk catching the eye while Jonathan Mokuena of the Lions was probably the outstanding player in the match, with Chris Jonck also doing good work behind the scrum.
Scores: Bulls Blue 42 Lions Red 12
Scorers: Bulls Blue: Try: Gerhard van den Heever (2), Werner Kruger, John Mametsa, Dries van Schalkwyk. Conversions: Morne Steyn (4). Penalties: Steyn (3)
Lions Red: Tries: Wandile Mjekevu, Pieter Engelbrecht. Conversion: Herkie Kruger
Bulls White 25 Lions Black 3
Scorers: Bulls White: Tries: Devin Oosthuizen (2), Wynand Willes. Conversion: Francois Brummer, Marnitz Boshoff. Penalties: Brummer (2).
Lions Black: Penalty: Burton Francis