Creative playmaker, Wandisile Simelane and Springbok star, Kurt-Lee Arendse led the Vodacom Bulls to a six-try bonus point victory over the Exeter Chiefs, in round 3 of the 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup, at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Played out in front of some 9000+ fans in attendance, the two teams enthralled rugby lovers on a fine Saturday evening at altitude.
It took a traditional Vodacom Bulls maul, 15 minutes into the game, to open the bank account for the night. With both sides having traded blows and the hosts needing to defend their turf early on. 15 minutes in, Elrigh Louw bull-dozed his way through the Exeter wall for the Pretoria outfit’s opening try, which Chris Smith converted as his side took a 7-0 lead. The visitors responded immediately as Josh Hodge went over the line with Joe Simmonds converting the try to level matters at 20 minutes. This would set the tone for the kind of evening the two sides would offer the spectators.
The hosts were not going to allow their guests an easy come back and 2 minutes later, they took a shot at poles to open the gap again. A minute later, the Vodacom Bulls lit the burners as Kurt-Lee Arendse combined with Wandisile Simelane to send David Kriel over the line for a try alongside the main grandstand. The Chiefs retaliated, building up pressure and eventually converted the opportunity through a maul on the far Southern grandstand, with Solomone Kata going over the line and Simmonds converting the opportunity to bring the game to a point with 6 minutes to play in the half.
Wanting to have the final say on home turf, the hosts found a late try in the opening stanza to stretch their lead to six points at the break, as Ruan Vermaak pierced through the defence for his first and the team’s third try for the game.
The Vodacom Bulls returned hot off the blocks after the break, with Wandisile Simelane breaking for the line and dotting down his second for the outing and the side’s bonus point under the poles. Smith slotted the conversion and the hosts were in the lead by 13, 2 minutes into the second stanza.
Soon after, Johan Grobbelaar went over the line, to thunderous applause from the nearby grandstand, as the Loftus faithful could sense there was more from their team. The more was – however – a bit different to what many would have anticipated. As the game saw a ten-minute window which included a red card and two major pauses in the game for medical attention needed by Kurt-Lee Arendse and Exeter’s Jack Yeandle.
Once that dust settled, the visitors pulled one back in the 64th minute, accompanied by a conversion to take Exeter to 21 points, 11 adrift of the Vodacom Bulls.
Simelane showed his brilliance, again, breaking from 40 meters to dot over the line with Smith converting the opportunity and the hosts moved to an 18-point lead, with 10 minutes on the board. This would not be the end of the points on the board, as the 2020 Champions showed great determination to score a late try that would ensure they walk away from the outing with a crucial bonus point that leaves Pool A wide open.
In the end, the score line read 39-28 but the Vodacom Bulls earned their victory the hard way, needing to make 152 tackles to 89 made by the Chiefs, a show of grit, determination and effort for the five points.
VODACOM BULLS SCORERS:
Tries: Wandisile Simelane x2, Elrigh Louw x1, David Kriel x1, Ruan Vermaak x1, Johan Grobbelaar x1
Conversions: Chris Smith x2, Johan Goosen x1
Penalties: Chris Smith x1
VODACOM BULLS STARTING XV:
1. Gerard Steenekamp, 2. Johann Grobbelaar, 3. Mornay Smith, 4. Ruan Vermaak, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 6. Marco van Staden, 7. Nizaam Carr, 8. Elrigh Louw, 9. Zak Burger, 10. Chris Smith, 11. David Kriel, 12. Harold Vorster, 13. Wandisile Simelane, 14. Canan Moodie, 15. Kurt-Lee Arendse
VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD:
16. Dylan Smith, 17. Bismarck Du Plessis, 18. Francois Klopper, 19. Janko Swanepoel, 20. WJ Steenkamp, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Johan Goosen, 23. Lionel Mapoe
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 Mayer – Physiotherapist, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, Simon Dyidi – Logistics Manager
VODACOM BULLS HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP FIXTURES:
Saturday, 10 December 2022: Vodacom Bulls 42-36 Lyon
Saturday, 17 December 2022: Exeter Chiefs 44-14 Vodacom Bulls
Saturday, 14 January 2023: Vodacom Bulls 39-28 Exeter Chiefs
Friday, 20 January 2023: Lyon vs Vodacom Bulls