Bulls reach Currie Cup final

The Blue Bulls reached a fourth consecutive Currie Cup final with a hard-fought, come-from-behind 31-23 semifinal victory over the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.

The Lions led 17-16 at the break, but should have been further ahead after outplaying the defending champions in most facets in the first 40 minutes.

However, a try late in the half restored hope to the majority of the 47 311 fans packed into the stadium. The second stanza then saw a complete reversal as the Bulls stamped their mark on the game and the Lions were left to play catch-up.

From the opening kick-off, the Bulls simply could not get their hands on the ball as the visitors completely dominated proceedings. The Lions were awarded an incredible four penalties in the first five minutes, one of which Andre Pretorius kicked through the uprights for an early 3-0 lead.

He did, however, miss two other goal-able attempts and a speculative long-range drop-goal inside the first 10 minutes that, if successful, would have spelled trouble for the home side.

The Lions did stretch their lead—just reward for a good period of supremacy—when centre Wayne Julies profited from some loose play by JP Nel at a ruck to scamper over under the poles.
Pretorius converted to make it 10-0.

The Bulls, however, hit back with two Morne Steyn penalties in the 24th and 28th minutes, but they were hardly playing at their best—an indication of the pressure the Lions were exerting.

Julies then made Steyn and Wynand Olivier look stupid as he ghosted through a gap untouched to score his second on 32 minutes, which gave the Lions a handsome 17-6 cushion with the half-time whistle imminent.

The Bulls, though, sprang to life—almost for the first time in the match—and charged up-field where flanker Pedrie Wannenburg finally got his team’s first try as well as an unwanted knee in the back from a Lions player.

Steyn converted and then kicked a penalty from the halfway line—courtesy of the foul on Wannenburg—for a 10-point turnaround. At 17-16, the Bulls were back in the game. Their spirits would have lifted even more when Pretorius missed a straightforward penalty on the stroke of half-time.

And they took the lead for the first time in the match five minutes after the restart when captain Anton Leonard raced in for a superb try after right wing Akona Ndungane secured the high ball from a kick by man-of-the-match Fourie du Preez.

Leonard, though, injured his shoulder in the process of dotting the ball down and was replaced by Johan Wasserman three minutes later.

The departure of their inspirational skipper failed to slow down the Bulls’ second-half resurgence as a scything break by Du Preez saw him put Ndungane away for a try under the poles on 55 minutes. Steyn converted to put the Bulls 28-20 ahead.

Pretorius kept chipping away and his third penalty closed the gap to five points with 15 minutes left on the clock.

But the Bulls continued to dominate the last quarter of an hour and when Steyn slotted a 77th-minute penalty, it was the final nail in the Lions’ coffin.—Sapa

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