Bulls earn bragging rights on Super Hero Sunday
Pretoria winners had to stage a comeback and only gained the upper hand in the closing minutes
The outskirts of Jozi do not have a towering 1,000m mountain but its square dusty mine dumps did not deter almost 48,500 people from turning up at FNB Stadium on Sunday.
When the dust settled after Super Hero Sunday‚ the Stormers and Bulls had walked away victorious‚ and with bragging rights until the start of the real deal at the end of January.
After trailing 14-21 at halftime, the Bulls ran out 40-35 victors.
The crowd was a little short of the figure that turned up for the corresponding event at the Cape Town Stadium a year ago and was almost to a man‚ woman and child still basking in the afterglow of the Springboks’ World Cup victory.
That was not the only thing there was a lot of.
Visible policing was taken to another level around this precinct — there were lots of Marvel characters‚ on the field early-season cobwebs‚ especially in the case of the Spiderman Lions‚ but mostly there was truckloads of commitment.
SA derbies are played at full throttle and were you to remove the branding‚ hashtags‚ bluff and the bluster these players would still run into each other with homicidal intent.
The Bulls were forced to stage a comeback and only managed to subdue the Lions in the closing minutes after holding the whip hand for most of the game.
The Lions to be fair‚ did themselves no favours as they found themselves on the wrong side of the law as often as the miscreants who prowl the streets around this stadium.
The Lions’ cause was complicated by a high penalty rate that culminated in a yellow card for hooker Pieter Jansen in the 28th minute.
Like the Stormers earlier in the day‚ they did show remarkable fortitude as they rode the punches the Bulls threw at them.
Though the Lions made a sprightly start it was the Bulls forwards who gradually ground their way forward.
By contracting the grizzled Jannie du Plessis the Lions hoped to bring ballast to their scrums but whether they achieved that objective will only be adequately answered later in the season.
The Bulls applied the squeeze but the pressure reliever for the Lions came when Duncan Matthews intercepted before scooting to the tryline with Rosko Specman rapidly closing in.
The Lions were a little quicker on the draw and they sucker-punched the Pretoria side again in the 34th minute from a deft 22m restart adroitly gathered by Jamba Ulengo.
The former Bull offloaded to Matthews‚ another erstwhile Bull‚ who was again forced to pit his sprinting skills against Specman.
It must have been hugely satisfying for Matthews to score twice against his former employers.
It was a little mystifying that the Lions held a 21-7 lead with a man in the bin after 35 minutes but the Bulls kept coming.
Behind their marauding pack Cornal Hendricks ran like a bull in Pamplona but deep in the game he also displayed the deftness of a bovine when he knocked on with the tryline at his mercy. He atoned a few minutes later when he grabbed the bouncing ball to score the matching try.
Centre partner Burger Odendaal‚ as well as Manie Libbok always looked game‚ while Morné Steyn mostly pulled the right strings.
Earlier‚ the Bulls were dealt a blow in the 18th minute when Warrick Gelant sustained an injury that halted play for an extended period before he was transported off the field.
Bulls (40) — Tries: Divan Rossouw (2)‚ Abongile Nonkontwana‚ Johnny Kotze‚ Manie Libbok‚ Cornal Hendricks. Conversions: Morne Steyn (2)‚ Chris Smith (2).
Lions (35) — Duncan Matthews (2)‚ Dan Kriel‚ Courtnal Skosan‚ Morne van den Berg. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (7).