Unlikely hero Petersen's brace puts Bulls into dream final

rugby15 June 2024 16:00
By:Brenden Nel

Vodacom Bulls winger Sergeal Petersen emerged as the unlikely hero as his side scored the biggest upset of the season, knocking out Leinster 25-20 on Saturday to advance to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship final.

Petersen scored a brace of tries - the second coming off an up and under burglary - as his side braved the odds and some strange decisions by the referee to get themselves over the line.

Petersen’s brace was matched by a 15-point haul from flyhalf Johan Goosen, who also bagged himself a try as Leinster’s much-vaunted side were humbled and forced to spend another season without a trophy.

Leinster’s nightmare run in the URC continues as they now have lost all three semifinals in the competition, two against Jake White’s Bulls. Add to that the three consecutive Investec Champions’ Cup losses and the recent talk of mental scars in the camp is becoming all too real for many Irish players.


And given that thought, the idea of many of them returning in a fortnight to face the World Champions in a two test series may not be as appetising as they may have thought earlier this week.

It also means that South Africa have had a finalist in each of the three URC tournaments and if Glasgow Warriors manage an upset later the Bulls may well host a final as well.

Loftus Versfeld is certainly no place for the faint-hearted and Leinster learnt that in droves on Saturday.

It was hard to even feel sorry for them as they were helped by a poor refereeing performance by Sam Grove-White. Despite the Bulls dominance at times, Grove-White missed high tackles, late hits and a number of normal penalties that would be regulation in any normal game. The most endangered species in Pretoria seems to be a hometown decision as Grove-White not only seemed to favour Leinster at every turn, but at times was coaching them out of penalties as well. At times it felt as if the Bulls were playing in Dublin, and if officials are to be this generous to away teams in future, it may well even up several contests.


It is unbelievable that Joe McCarthy, one of Leinster’s biggest sinners on the night, got away with everything that he did, and one can only hope that when he returns to Emerald Green the officials won’t think they are Santa Claus on his Christmas morning.

Still, it only underlines just how good the Bulls performance was - especially in the face of the overwhelming experience of more than 2600 caps in the Leinster team, and in particular their defence at times.

One one occasion, with the game precariously poised in what would later be the final score, Leinster went on a 22-phase attack, only to see the Bulls loose forward duo of Elrigh Louw and Cameron Hanekom, who both had sensational games, tackle them backwards and force the turnover.

This was a performance built on bravery and determination, and shows just how far this Bulls side have come under White.

And even at halftime when the Bulls were up by three points, there was a feeling that they should have been up by more.

Two missed chances - including a try that was disallowed - saw the game stay even until Petersen was yellow carded for a deliberate knockon - and Leinster scored from the subsequent penalty.


But even with Petersen in the bin, they weren’t going to be stopped. A strong lineout maul on the half hour saw Hanekom burst free and make 20 metres, setting up the momentum to pound the Leinster line before the ball swung right and Goosen ran into the hole to score.

With the scores level, Goosen added a penalty just before the break to give the Bulls the lead.

The Bulls grabbed the momentum in the second half after only two minutes, as Willie le Roux took the attack left and Harold Vorster on the wing sent through a perfect grubber for Petersen to run onto and score.

But eight minutes later Leinster was on the Bulls line and Caelan Doris was the second wave from a tap penalty to force himself over and even the scores.

From there both flyhalves added a penalty each as the time ticked on and it seemed it was going to go down to the wire.

When Leinster brought on the 1088 caps on their bench, it was expected the Bulls would fold as they did in Dublin earlier this year, but their reserves refused to give in.


And the burglary came exactly when everyone least expected it - an up and under that looked as if Petersen had knocked on, only to tap it forward and regather, and when his head looked up there was no defence in front of him.

In terms of a moment, it was made for Petersen - the only player in the Bulls setup to have won a URC with the DHL Stormers - and the irony of him having won that trophy as a late replacement for Leolin Zas, who was injured, was not lost on the crowd as he celebrated in style.

The Bulls defence had the last laugh, and their tactical masterclass of attack, stern defence, physicality and a power kicking game was a masterstroke from the coaching team.

And it means they have 80 minutes of rugby left and they can claim a trophy for South Africa.


Vodacom Bulls - tries: Johan Goosen, Sergeal Petersen (2). Conversions: Goosen (2)

Penalties: Goosen (2)

Leinster - tries: James Lowe, Caelin Doris. Conversions: Ross Byrne (2). Penalties: Byrne (2)