The Vodacom Bulls claimed their second win on the road with a galvanised victory over Cardiff Rugby in the Welsh capital, making it back-to-back wins on their European tour of this current 2023/24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaign.
Two tries in the opening stanza with two penalties in the second half as well as a gritty defensive performance saw the gents out of Tshwane leaving Arms Park with a bag full of four points for their defiant fight in cold weather conditions in the South of the United Kingdom.
After an intense opening 10 minutes of play, with the hosts demanding their visitors to defend with intent in their own half, the South African outfit pierced the field with a cheeky but well-calculated chip from David Kriel to send Embrose Papier over the line. Soon after Sebastian de Klerk would split the field in half, blitzing from his own half to dot under the poles with Chris Smith putting the vanish with his boot. The herd quickly built a 12-point buffer inside the first quarter of the half.
Cardiff, supported by 6,000+ boisterous fans in the stands, needed to find a way back into the game and they worked the ball wide to squeeze their guests on the edge as Mason Grady went over the line for an unconverted try on the 25-minute mark. It was clear that both teams, on either side of the line were up for the challenge, however, it was the Vodacom Bulls seeking to stamp authority albeit under difficult conditions with a well-mannered Cardiff side rising to the occasion too. The herd would visit their hosts 22 two times, looking to extend their lead but were denied entry on each visit.
The clock ran down in the opening stanza and the two sides went into the break with the scoreboard settled on 5-12 in favour of the Tshwane outfit.
Upon resumption of play, the Vodacom Bulls took an offer to kick at goals with Chris Smith slotting in the 3 points to open the gap to 10 points. Just as the team was building up momentum on both defensive and attacking play, they were dealt a setback with David Kriel receiving a yellow card for a knock-on after an attempted intercept. The reduction in numbers had an immediate impact on proceedings with the hosts going over the line for a converted try 60 seconds after the call, bringing the game to within 3 points with 26 minutes left on the clock.
The game was now wide open for either team to grab, assuring those who braved the cold a thriller finish.
Defending with one man less, the gents out of the Capital of Rugby managed to break their opponent’s defensive line as speedster, de Klerk broke through once again but he was brought down on the cusp of the Cardiff 22. That move earned the herd the chance to kick at goals, which Smith converted to open the gap to 6 points with 19 minutes on the clock. Kriel would return to the field with 16 minutes left in the game and the Vodacom Bulls sensing a big opportunity.
The final 10 would be a fight for the brave, with the herd charging for a try and also defending with their lives and in the end, it was that never-say-die spirit effort that saw them defend and win a turnover for the match win on their own 5m line in the 80th minute.
Jake White’s chargers took a 12-18 victory, their second on tour with just a trip to Edinburgh before they return to fortress Loftus.
Tries: Embrose Papier x1, Sebastian de Klerk x1
Conversions: Chris Smith x1
Penalties: Chris Smith x2
VODACOM BULLS vs CARDIFF RUGBY STARTING XV: 1. Simphiwe Matanzima, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Reinhardt Ludwig, 5. Janko Swanepoel, 6. Nizaam Carr (c), 7. Cyle Brink, 8. Mpilo Gumede, 9. Embrose Papier, 10. Chris Smith, 11. Sergeal Petersen, 12. David Kriel, 13. Stedman Gans, 14. Sebastian de Klerk, 15. Devon Williams
VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Johan Grobbelaar, 17. Gerhard Steenekamp, 18. Mornay Smith, 19. Ruan Nortje, 20. Elrigh Louw, 21. Keagan Johannes, 22. Johan Goosen, 24. Cameron Hanekom
** Hanekom is player 23 but will run out in jersey 24 because of size constraints
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