Blitzbok Kurt-Lee Arendse celebrated his Bulls debut with a brace of tries
Like a cricketer who takes a net session almost too seriously, the Bulls ushered in the Jake White era with a dominant 49-28 victory over the Sharks in their Super Fan Saturday meeting at Loftus on Saturday evening.
It was a scoreline that was rather flattering to the Durbanites.
Not much had been expected of the match, particularly since both sides were playing their first competitive match since mid-March.
Yet the Bulls – with their director of rugby continually stating in the build-up to the resumption that he’d like to win every game no matter the context – were powerful and precise, delivering the type of performance that one could jokingly say suggested they’ve peaked way too early.
White’s pack was dominant, tackling with vigour and winning the collisions.
Given the Sharks’ proficiency in that regard during their short but successful Super Rugby campaign, it was a feather in the Bulls’ cap that its starry loose trio of Marco van Staden, Arno Botha and Duane Vermeulen bossed the breakdowns.
And then there was White’s pocket rockets, headed by Blitzbok Kurt-Lee Arendse, who scored a brace of tries and was well supported by his sevens skipper Stedman Gans’ twinkle toes and the evergreen 38-year-old Gio Aplon.
The result was an electrifying first-half showing that saw the Bulls race into a 35-7 lead.
It took a clumsy high tackle from Sharks midfielder Jeremy Ward, which saw him sent to the sin-bin, to crank the hosts into gear.
His almost 12-minute absence proved immensely costly as the Bulls crossed the whitewash three times, starting with hooker Schalk Erasmus rounding off an efficient maul almost immediately from the Ward penalty.
Blitzboks skipper and outside centre Stedman Gans then flaunted his running ability, pouncing on a superb Morne Steyn bomber that was knocked-on and then giving a delightful step inside to beat former provincial teammate and Sharks fullback Manie Libbok.
Incisive counter-attacking was once again on show when Arendse, following a nifty off-load from loosehead Jacques van Rooyen, turned on the pace before changing his angle and finishing off a fine 80m run.
Arendse, another sevens exponent who looks ready to add value to the fifteen-man game, was in again when Erasmus secured a stray line-out and some skilful short passing, particularly from Cornal Hendricks, granted him space in the left corner.
By the time Gans, unwittingly given crucial extra space after Sharks youngster Thaakir Abrahams slipped after rushing out in defence, threw a loopy, scoring pass to right wing Travis Ismaiel, the result was all but sewn up.
The Sharks, who generally lacked cohesion on attack, suffered multiple lapses on defence and didn’t clean effectively, strung more phases phases together after the turnaround as the Bulls made wholesale changes and scored three tries to add some respectability to the scoreline.
However, the men from Loftus nonetheless still managed to show spurts of skill and potency on attack to dot down two more times in the second period, with replacement David Kriel the beneficiary on both occasions.
Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse (2), David Kriel (2), Schalk Erasmus, Stedman Gans, Travis Ismaiel
Conversions: Morne Steyn (5), Chris Smith (2)
Tries: Grant Williams, Marius Louw, Dan Jooste, Jaden Hendrikse
Conversions: Curwin Bosch (3), Jordan Chait
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