A free-flowing Jukskei Derby produced six tries in the first half and three in the second, with the hosts scoring six of them to move up to second place on the log and add to the Sigma Lions’ woes this week, which started with a 41-31 loss to Tafel Lager Griquas at home on Wednesday. As a result, they find themselves in last place at the halfway stage of the competition.
A month to the day of their last Carling Currie Cup clash, with COVID-19 and other complications leading to three consecutive match cancellations, Jake White’s charges built on the momentum of their 17-14 win over South Africa ‘A’ as they spread the ball wide and ran their neighbours ragged.
The defending champions showed their intent from the get-go, turning down six kickable penalties and running in three tries in the opening quarter. On the flip side, gutsy defence and game management saw them keep out the Sigma Lions during the 10 minutes they were down to 14 men straight before and after half-time and they dominated the second half, leaking just seven points.
White was forced into two late changes with Arno Botha replacing Marcell Coetzee and WJ Steenkamp filling in for an injured Nizaam Carr on the bench, with Cornal Hendricks taking over the captaincy from Coetzee, who’s still feeling the effects from a bout of COVID-19.
It took just two minutes for the Vodacom Bulls to score the opening try through centre Harold Vorster, who pumped his legs and had the support of two teammates to rush over. Flyhalf Johan Goosen, making his Carling Currie Cup debut for the Vodacom Bulls along with fellow Springbok Lionel Cronje in the No 13 jersey, slotted the conversion.
Former Sigma Lions star Cronje created a second seven-pointer three minutes later, floating a silky offload to Champion of the Match Johan Grobbelaar who, realising he won’t have the speed to canter in, popped a basketball-like pass for Zak Burger to finish off.
The Sigma Lions then awoke from their slumber, Wandisile Simelane - playing in the No 15 jersey - providing the necessary spark and good handling paving the way for Vincent Tshituka to touch down. Junior Springbok flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse added the conversion to make it 14-7 after a frenetic opening 10 minutes.
The home team looked to get seven points back and David Kriel thought he’d done the deal in the 19th minute, but Goosen’s long looping pass to the fullback was ruled forward by the TMO. A big shove at the ensuing scrum earned the Vodacom Bulls a penalty, which was tapped quickly and Grobbelaar wasted little time as he willed his way over to restore the 14-point buffer.
The visitors hit back with one of the tries of the season. Again, it was Simelane who produced the magic. Fearless and full of flair, the 23-year-old set off from the wrong side of his own try-line and sent Tshituka surging upfield. The rampaging flank showed scintillating speed and world-class ball skills as he pulled two defenders and put Courtnall Skosan away with an audacious offload, with Hendrikse popping over the conversion.
The Vodacom Bulls had the last laugh, though, as Burger sold Hendrikse a dummy to score his second and his team’s bonus-point try before committed defence denied the visitors what seemed like an inevitable score late in the half. Repeated infringements in the red zone resulted in a yellow card for Botha, however, the Sigma Lions left empty-handed as they were first held up and then knocked on to signal the end of the half after six minutes of extra time.
The tempo of the first half led to a somewhat subdued start to the second stanza. It took 15 minutes for the next score, Goosen finding Richard Kriel with a pinpoint crosskick, with the wing grounding the ball despite the efforts of Rabz Maxwane. Goosen missed his first kick of the afternoon but the Vodacom Bulls were in the pound seats, leading 33-14.
A Harlem Globetrotter-like over-the-head pass by Goosen was the catalyst for the next try, Dan Kriel this time refusing to be denied following fluid handling. Goosen was back on target to stretch the lead to 40-14. Replacement prop Sti Sithole pulled one back from a dominant driving maul that gave the Sigma Lions an opportunity to pick up a four-try bonus point in the final seven minutes, but it was not to be for Ivan van Rooyen’s men.
Vodacom Bulls 40 (28) – Tries: Harold Vorster, Zak Burger (2), Johan Grobbelaar, Richard Kriel, Dan Kriel. Conversions: Johan Goosen (5).
Sigma Lions 21 (14) – Tries: Vincent Tshituka, Courtnall Skosan, Sti Sithole. Conversions: Jordan Hendrikse (3).