The Vodacom Bulls finished as runners-up of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship 2021/22 season.
This after the side’s narrow 18-13 defeat to the inaugural champions, the DHL Stormers, in the grand final of the championship at Cape Town’s DHL Stadium on Saturday.
The inaugural final of the cross-hemisphere competition had all the aspects of a season-finale – the colour and excitement of the teams’ most faithful supporters who packed the stadium, the competitiveness and rivalry of the teams, and most importantly the intensity and unmatched display of rugby for the 80 minutes of play.
For a first season of competition between the 16 participants of the Vodacom URC from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy and South Africa, the level of competitiveness that has been on display throughout the season bodes well for the future championship.
The first half of the final in Cape Town was everything finals rugby is all about – intense, entertaining, end-to-end stuff with either side giving as good as they received.
It was the visiting Vodacom Bulls who got the scoreboard ticking first when centre, Harold Vorster, barged his way over the try line and Chris Smith converted to give the team from Tshwane an early 0-7 lead.
The home side missed an opportunity to narrow the margin when flyhalf, Mannie Libbok, missed a penalty attempt right in front of the posts.
The pivot did, however, manage to add three points for the home team before the half-time break to take the score to 3-7, in favour of the Vodacom Bulls, at half-time.
It was a fiery start in the second half as the Vodacom Bulls again were the first side to add points on the board when Smith kicked over a penalty in the 42nd minute.
It did not take long for the DHL Stormers to step on their own pedal. In the 44th minute Evan Roos scored the home side’s first try of the match with Libbok converting the try to level the scores, 10-all.
Smith went on to add one penalty kick for the Vodacom Bulls to complete the side’s points tally for the game.
The DHL Stormers were not done yet. A try from substitute hooker, Andre-Hugo Venter, and a late drop-goal from Libbok sealed the deal to clinch the title for the side from Cape Town.
Although disappointed not to have been crowned champions, the Vodacom Bulls can be proud of a formidable campaign which saw them come from behind after being at the tail of the log after the first half of the season to being runners-up when the curtains came down on the first-ever Vodacom URC.
DHL Stormers (3) 18
TRIES: Evan Roos. Andre-Hugo Venter
CONVERSIONS: Manie Libbok
Vodacom Bulls (7) 13
TRIES: Harold Vorster
CONVERSIONS: Chris Smith
PENALTIES: Smith (2)