The Vodacom Bulls and Jukskei rivals, the Emirates Lions enthralled rugby fans in a classic highveld derby in round 15 of the 2022/23 Vodacom United Rugby Championship. It was the Johannesburg team that walked away with the victory as their hosts had to settle for crucial bonus points on Saturday 04 March 2023.
The two teams were presented with a number of scoring opportunities but it was the visitors’ two tries inside the opening 25 minutes that put all the pressure on the hosts as the visiting Emirates Lions had their tales up leading 20-3. A third penalty of the half, to give Sanele Nohamba his 18th point of the game saw the visitors add more to their tally, putting all the pressure on their hosts who needed to respond, quickly.
Respond they did, meticulously so.
On the stroke of the halftime buzzer, the Vodacom Bulls pulled one back with a brilliant cross-field try as Morne Steyn deftly placed a cross-kick from right to left for Sbu Nkosi to go over the line.
At the break, the visitors were in the leading 113-23.
A moment of brilliance in the opening minutes of the second stanza saw Sibongile Novuka tap into his soccer skills to keep the ball in play for Wandisile Simelane to put the finishing touches, closing the gap to just 5 points.
The hosts would have to wait for 15 minutes before they could find another scoring opportunity and patience led them to their promised land as Johan Grobelaar went over the line to grab the Pretoria outfit’s fourth try of the day and a crucial bonus point.
For the first time in the match, the Vodacom Bulls were in the lead as 25 points played 23 with 19 minutes left on the clock. This swing of the pendulum was short-lived though, as the visitors were awarded a converted penalty, and another 4 minutes later which meant the hosts needed a try to walk away with more than a bonus point.
On the stroke of the full-time buzzer, the Vodacom Bulls found a spurt of energy (helped by 14 000 cheering fans in the stands) to put the Emirates Lions’ defence under pressure. A run of play led to a 25-metre maul (near the grandstand) which came just short of the try line with the referee adjudging it to be held up and the touch assistant referee signalling the end of the match.
In the end, it was the visitors who walked away with the win, their second on the bounce, boosting their hopes of making it into the playoffs whilst Pretoria’s team got two bonus points for tries scored and losing by less than seven points.
Director of Rugby, Jake White said the result was tough to accept but there is still plenty of rugby to be played and focus shifts onto preparing for the fixtures ahead.
“We are disappointed and probably are a little bit embarrassed as well because we had enough to win that game but it happens [in sport] but that does not mean we accept it. We need to sit collectively as players and coaches – because I cannot sit with a magic wand and get it right – we will come together as a team,”
What we need right now is to remain positive because there is still a lot of rugby to be played. In some seasons you get it right and in others, you don’t. Sometimes it goes like this, the ball bounces in your way and others not,”
“So we just have to keep working, keep fighting and get the players to keep believing because in sport the wheel turns.”
VODACOM BULLS SCORERS:
Tries: Wandisile Simelane 2, Sbu Nkosi x1, Johan Grobbelaar x1
Conversion: Morne Steyn x1
Penalty goal: Morne Steyn x1
VODACOM BULLS vs EMIRATES LIONS STARTING XV:
1. Dylan Smith, 2. Johan Grobbelaar, 3. Mornay Smith, 4. Jacques Du Plessis, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 6. Marco van Staden, 7. WJ Steenkamp, 8. Elrigh Louw, 9. Embrose Papier, 10. Morne Steyn, 11. Sbu Nkosi, 12. David Kriel, 13. Cornal Hendricks, 14. Sibongile Novuka, 15. Wandisile Simelane
VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Francois Klopper, 19. Ruan Vermaak, 20. Cyle Brink, 21. Bernard van der Linde, 22. Chris Smith, 23. Harold Vorster
MANAGEMENT: Jake White – Director of Rugby, Nollis Marais – Breakdown, Russell Winter – Forwards, Chris Rossouw – Backs, Werner Kruger – Scrum Coach, Pine Pienaar – Defense Coach, Andre Volsteedt – Strength & Conditioning, John-William Meyer – Technical Analyst, Dr. Herman Rossouw – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Senior Physiotherapist, Kyle Meyer – Physiotherapist, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, Simon Dyidi – Logistics Manager