Utility back David Kriel dotted down a hattrick of tries as the Vodacom Bulls registered a resounding 29-54 victory in round three of the 2023/24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship. The Tshwane outfit enjoyed a great run at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, breaching the Parma defence eight times as Kriel and company went over the line to help the herd return to the top three.
Front-rower Akker van der Merwe and fullback Devon Williams both had two tries each with debutant Sergeal Petersen also registering his name with the scorers to mark his start in blue a memorable one. Flyhalf Johan Goosen was on song too as he slotted in six of the seven attempts at goals with Chris Smith slotting in his one and only attempt.
The home side got off to a brilliant start, putting the herd under pressure early on, resulting in an unconverted try inside the opening 10 minutes of the match. They would go on to find three more tries in the 80 minutes of play.
For the visiting Vodacom Bulls, it was van der Merwe who got them going as the stealthy hooker went over the line for a Goosen converted try in the 17th minute, with the herd assuming the lead for the match until the end. Four minutes later, the herd would scramble for another well-worked team effort, sending Sergeal Petersen over the line for his first in the daisy print with Goosen stepping up to put the finishing touches again. Shortly before the half-hour mark, van der Merwe would go over for his second of the afternoon and Goosen would deliver with another conversion.
Not to be outdone, the hosts found a way to respond with a stroke of genius right at the thirty-minute mark, to close the gap to within nine points. With three minutes left in the half, the hosts made good use of a penalty shot and the game became a six-point affair as the first stanza came to an end.
Going into the break, the scoreboard read 15-21 to the visiting Vodacom Bulls.
On resumption of play the herd out of Tshwane sent Devon Williams and David Kriel over the line for two converted tries to stretch the points gap to twenty before Zebre pulled it back with two converted tries of their own. The herd continued to show an impressive desire to score points with Williams and Kriel finding the last two tries in the final ten minutes.
After the match, Vodacom Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White said: “This result will do our confidence a lot of good. Anyone coming here (to Italy) and undermining Zebre do so at their own peril because they asked us a lot of questions,”
“Making a couple of changes probably brought us a lot of new energy. We now need to try and keep continuity to make sure we don’t start from zero next weekend,”
“I am much happier this week with not only the result but the way we played. We allowed them four tries and so we have to figure out how to close that up but generally happy with the way we played and result.”
On the way his team played and worked out the result, he commented: “We created some nice opportunities, also there are a lot of other things we worked on this week that we needed to,”
“We focused on our scrum and our maul, we didn’t want to give them any penalties there and we didn’t so we happy with that.”
White went on to say: “David Kriel played at 12 for us last season when Harold (Vorster) was injured, he is a versatile player. It is wonderful to see him play well at centre especially because we have the Springboks returning soon,”
“Simphiwe (Matanzima) was also outstanding today, he scrummed well with Akker (van der Merwe) and Wilco (Louw) who are a little more experienced than him, I’m sure all that experience must be nice for him,”
Asked about the integration of World Cup winning quartet of Marco van Staden, Canan Moodie, Willie le Roux and Kurt-Lee Arendse, the Vodacom Bulls mentor reflected: “It will be good to have the national players come back because their energy will be infectious as you can imagine.”
The Vodacom Bulls now travel to Wales where they will face Cardiff Rugby at Arms Park on Friday 10 November 2023.
Tries: Akker van der Merwe x2, Sergeal Petersen x1, Devon Williams x2, David Kriel x3,
Conversion: Johan Goosen x6, Chris Smith x1
VODACOM BULLS vs ZEBRE STARTING XV: 1. Simphiwe Matanzima, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Janko Swanepoel, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 6. Marcell Coetzee (c), 7. Elrigh Louw, 8. Cameron Hanekom, 9. Zak Burger, 10. Johan Goosen, 11. Sergeal Petersen, 12. David Kriel, 13. Stedman Gans, 14. Sebastian de Klerk, 15. Devon Williams
VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Johan Grobbelaar, 17. Dylan Smith, 18. Mornay Smith, 19. Reinhardt Ludwig, 20. Nizaam Carr, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Chris Smith, 23. Wandisile Simelane
MANAGEMENT: Jake White – Director of Rugby, Chris Rossouw – Assistant Coach, Gary Gold – Assistant Coach, Andries Bekker – Assistant Coach, John-William Meyer – Technical Analyst, Dr. Herman Rossouw – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Senior Physiotherapist, Darryn Berry – Physiotherapist, Andre Volsteedt – Strength & Conditioning, Yusuf Vahed – Sport Scientist, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, Simon Dyidi – Logistics Manager