The Blue Bulls knocked the stuffing out of Western Province in the first hour as they beat last year’s Currie Cup runners-up 45-26 at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night, giving the ball plenty of air as they ran in six tries to start their campaign on a confident – almost arrogant – note.
After a bad start in which flyhalf Tian Schoeman had his clearance from the kickoff charged down, forcing the Bulls to defend five metres from their line, the home side played some breathtaking rugby as they scorched into a 24-0 lead at halftime, which they extended to 38-0 after 54 minutes.
The try-feast began with a high-class try in the 19th-minute as loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman, who was one of the Bulls’ standout forwards, made a great steal and then scrumhalf Piet van Zyl, who gave quality service throughout, made a tremendous pass out wide to eighthman Arno Botha, the captain going on a storming run before passing back inside for Van Zyl to score.
The Bulls’ second try, 13 minutes later, came from a textbook up-and-under from Van Zyl and a wonderful chase by wing Jamba Ulengo, opposite number Khanyo Ngcukana being counter-rucked off the ball. A swift backline attack led to a Bulls lineout and centre Dries Swanepoel took it quickly, his smart play leading to a ruck, from which impressive lock Jason Jenkins burst through to score.
Another slick backline move created space out wide from the kickoff and lock Marvin Orie galloped over to complete a classy first half for the Blue Bulls.
Pierre Schoeman was again in the thick of things in the loose in the 47th minute, his tackle winning a scrum for the Bulls, from which debutant wing Jade Stiglingh showed his pace to slice through for the try on a wraparound move with Tian Schoeman.
The home side again found space out wide in the 54th minute, fullback Bjorn Basson chipping infield for Ulengo to score.
The quality of the game suffered in the last 10 minutes as the Bulls went through the motions and Western Province finally hung on to the ball for long enough to score four tries and earn themselves a bonus point, Basson scoring a late try for the Bulls to have the final say.
Tian Schoeman was excellent with the boot, succeeding with all seven of his kicks at goal.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Piet van Zyl, Jason Jenkins, Marvin Orie, Jade Stiglingh, Jamba Ulengo, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (6). Penalty: Schoeman.
Western Province – Tries: Johnny Kotze, Leolin Zas, Huw Jones, Scott van Breda. Conversions: Brandon Thomson (3).