Bulls break losing sequence in emphatic fashion

rugby02 March 2024 18:56| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich

The Vodacom Bulls have waited a long time to get one over the DHL Stormers but they got it right at their eighth attempt in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship with an emphatic 40-22 win at Loftus in a rain delayed game at Loftus.

The Bulls won because they forced the Stormers to play catchup in wet conditions and hounded them into error as they did so, and the net result was that they scored four tries to three and clinched a telling five log point to none haul from the game.

It was their first win over the Stormers in the URC, but it brought big rewards as it propelled the Bulls, at least for now at the time of writing, to the top of the log.

The Stormers by contrast slipped to seventh as they continue to pay for the pressure that has been exerted on them because of their poor overseas tour in November, where they lost all four matches.

The Bulls hadn’t lost since they went down to the Stormers in the first round game in Cape Town, and this was the first Stormers defeat since they lost to Leicester Tigers away in the first round of the Investec Champions Cup on 8 December.

It was their first loss to a fellow South African team since the Emirates Lions beat them in the first week of December 2021.

That is reason for the Bulls to feel proud of their achievement, and it should have the people of Pretoria celebrating long into the tonight.

On the day, the Bulls were the better team, even though there were times when despite everything the Stormers managed to show their fighting identity by coming back into the game when the scoreline was steeply against them.


With a crowd of 50 026 coming through the stadium gates it was a day that needed drama as well as spectacle and there was both, starting with the electric storm that advanced on the stadium that forced the game to be delayed by an hour.

The rain fell quite steadily in the first half, so it was a tribute to both teams that it was played at a good tempo and delivered so much spectacle for the fans.

Back in the day you would have expected the Stormers, then parading as Western Province, because when rugby was a winter sport in South Africa they played more often in the rain, to be advantaged by being forced to play a wet weather game.

But that hasn’t been the case for a long time, and it was the Bulls who best played the conditions, with the pivotal moment probably being the first two minutes.

That was how long it took the Bulls to get over the line, with hooker Johan Grobbelaar dotting down off a driving maul that advertised the hunger of the home team as there as many as 12 or 13 players who took part in it.

That score meant the Bulls went ahead 7-0, and it set up the narrative for the game - the Bulls lineout setup had come courtesy of a Stormers penalty conceded pretty much from the kickoff.


So there were two things - the first thing you don’t want in a wet weather game is to fall behind early, and the second thing you don’t want is to have lapses of discipline.

Unfortunately for the Stormers, that early try was closely followed by a long-range Johan Goosen penalty that forced them to play catchup.

And it turned into a vicious circle, with their frenetic catchup attempt just leading to more penalties, as well as other elementary errors.

The Bulls by contrast played the right rugby for the conditions, ensured the Stormers’ admittedly impressive at times attempts to run the ball in the wet had to start from too deep.

And with the Stormers continually getting on the wrong side of referee Marius van der Westhuizen’s whistle, the penalties racked up and were converted by Goosen to push his team into a 13-0 lead after as many minutes.

The Stormers did look dangerous on the counter-attack when the ball was kicked long onto them, and Warrick Gelant made a couple of early breaks to suggest what was to come, which was his break that with help from Evan Roos ended up with right wing Ben Loader scoring in the corner.

The try came after 17 minutes and although Libbok missed the conversion, the Stormers might have felt they were settling, only to continue to be their own worst enemies.

In addition to the two penalties that Goosen kicked to make it 19-5, there were kicks kicked directly into touch (Herschel Jantjies), restarts that were botched (Manie Libbok) and then a poor return from visits into the opposition 22.


Bulls fans who have gotten used to seeing the Stormers come back at their team, particularly with the 2021/22 URC final in mind, might have started to feel uncomfortable when in the last 10 minutes of the half there was a momentum shift.

Stedman Gans was yellow carded for an attempted knock down, and while he was off in the last eight minutes before halftime the Stormers scored a driving-maul try to Roos and also kicked a penalty.

Suddenly it was 19-15, just a four point advantage to the Bulls, as the teams went to halftime.

The Stormers would have sensed blood, felt they’d been let out of jail, and for the first eight minutes of the second half they hammered away at the Bulls’ line.

That may have been where, apart from those early scores that set the tone, the Bulls won the game - their defence was outstanding, and they forced the Stormers into error.

Then came one of those ridiculous yellow cards, where although it was correct by the law Gelant really had little option but to tackle the way he did, and it was with the Stormers down to 14 men that there was another considerable momentum shift.

The Stormers got back into their habit of conceding penalties too, and it was off a sequence of those that the Bulls established the field position from where they set up the platform for their second driving maul try, again dotted down by Grobbelaar.

At 26-15, it was the Stormers back playing catchup.

And on a day when the little bounces went right for the Bulls, it was pretty much game, set and match when after Neethling Fouche was penalised for not wrapping his arms when joining a loose scrum a few metres from the Bulls line, the Bulls had the field position from which after a strong forward drive the ball was kicked through when it went loose for Canan Moodie to score.

At 33-15 there shouldn’t have been a way back for the Stormers but they did come back with a strong driving maul try and might have been well back into it was Evan Roos not adjudged to be what must have been millimetres short in dotting the ball down.

The television replays didn’t show the line so Van der Westhuizen couldn’t find evidence of it being a score, but Roos and his teammates didn’t look happy about it.

Instead of the Stormers scoring to make it a close game it was the Bulls who profited from an error they made in chasing the game as scrumhalf Embrose Papier scored after a ball went looe and it was kicked through.

That was pretty much the game and the end of the long Bulls drought against the Stormers.


Vodacom Bulls 40 - Tries: Johan Grobbelaar 2, Canan Moodie and Embrose Papier; Conversions: Johan Goosen 4; Penalties: Johan Goosen 4.

DHL Stormers 22 - Tries: Ben Loader, Evan Roos and Andre-Hugo Venter; Conversions: Manie Libbok 2; Penalty: Manie Libbok.