CAPE TOWN – The Bulls rule South African rugby!
It took them all of 100 minutes to put the Sharks away, but Jake White’s team dug deep in their reserves, with Arno Botha scoring the winning try to secure a 26-19 victory and a 24th Currie Cup title at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The match was filled with drama from the start – Morné Steyn missing his first penalty, referee Jaco Peyper opting not to give a penalty at unstable scrums, and then play being suspended in the 24th minute due to a threat of lightning.
It was a fitting end to a season marked by bizarre circumstances due to Covid-19, and Duane Vermeulen’s team will rejoice after it looked like the Sharks were going to win their ninth title.
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) January 30, 2021
The Durbanites just looked hungrier and sharper from the outset, contesting hard at the breakdowns and employing a rush defence that knocked the rhythm out of the home side.
But in the end, five missed goal-kicks from usual sharp-shooter Curwin Bosch proved costly in the end. Bosch and Steyn exchanged five penalties in the opening half for a 9-6 Bulls lead, but the visitors took the initiative before the break when Steyn kicked a 22-metre drop-out into touch.
A flowing move from the resultant scrum saw Jaden Hendrikse find Aphelele Fassi, who fed Sbu Nkosi, and the Bok wing finished off superbly with a trademark dive past Cornal Hendricks.
Bosch almost put the Sharks out of range with a brilliant penalty from inside his own half and another three-pointer later to make it 19-9 with 25 minutes to go, but the Bulls never gave up.
— Carling Currie Cup (@TheCurrieCup) January 30, 2021
White sent his reserves on to make an impact, and they did just that. The Sharks opted to kick a number of late penalties to set up lineout drives, but Vermeulen and the rest of his pack absorbed the onslaught right up to the final 10 minutes.
Suddenly the Bulls scrum became dominant, and replacement flyhalf Chris Smith landed a penalty a minute before the end to make it 19-19. He missed a kick after the hooter that would’ve clinched the trophy, which saw the game go into extra time.
Bosch and Smith failed with their penalty attempts in the first half of extra time, and just when it seemed like the Bulls were going to be crowned champions on the basis of finishing on top of the log, they claimed their 24th title in some style.
They marched downfield with ball-in-hand, going through 18 thrilling phases before loose forward Botha stretched over for his second touchdown.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt and captain Lukhanyo Am will rue those missed Bosch kicks, and the decision-making to go for touch instead of the posts in the last quarter.
But in the end, the Bulls produced the big play when it mattered most, and on their overall performance this season, they are deserved champions.
And a first Currie Cup triumph for White.
Bulls 26 – Tries: Arno Botha (2). Conversions: Morné Steyn (1), Chris Smith (1). Penalties: Steyn (3), Smith (1).
Sharks 19 – Try: Sbu Nkosi. Conversion: Curwin Bosch (1). Penalties: Bosch (4).