Johan Goosen scored 14 points, while David Kriel scored a brace of tries, as the Blue Bulls clinched a hard-fought 24-17 win over the Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.
With the Currie Cup playoffs looming, this game was always going to hold real importance as the Blue Bulls set their sights on a victory that could keep their semifinal hopes alive.
Prior to kick off, the Pumas remained handily placed in third spot on the log, and the Bulls dwindled down in seventh. However, just eight log points separated the sides.
The Pumas also came into this game on the back of successive defeats in recent weeks, while Jake White’s side were on the hunt for a third successive Currie Cup victory after a recent resurgence coincided with the return of several URC stars.
Saturday’s line-up included Springboks such as John Goosen, Elrigh Louw, Embrose Papier, Nizaam Carr, Ruan Nortje and Marcell Coetzee, and ultimately that star power made a noticeable difference in the opening period.
After a slow start that saw the Bulls fall 6-0 behind, the visitors slowly began to dictate proceedings, with well-worked tries to David Kriel and Goosen taking them into a handy 14-9 lead by halftime.
After all the endeavour of the first half, the start to the second was a torrid affair filled with basic errors and ill-discipline from both sides.
As it was, it took until the 56th minute before there was any change to the scoreline, with Pumas flyhalf Tinus de Beer slotting his fourth penalty of the afternoon to make it a two-point ball game.
Although that penalty was cancelled out soon after via the boot of Goosen, it was game on once again when Pumas fullback Devon Williams scored a superb try just after the hour mark to draw the scores level.
In a match that had suddenly turned into a lottery, the Bulls crucially hit back through a well-finished try to Kriel as play headed into the final 10 minutes, and from there the men in blue managed to hold on for an all-important victory.
PUMAS - Try: Devon Williams. Penalties: Tinus de Beer (4).
BULLS - Tries: David Kriel (2), Johan Goosen. Conversions: Goosen (3). Penalty: Goosen.