The Vodacom Bulls under-21 side held their nerve to book a spot in the finals of the 2022 SA Rugby under-21 Cup, after pipping a spirited Leopards under-21 side – in an enthralling battle at Loftus Versfeld, B-field.
The face-off began early afternoon – at 13h00 – under scotching temperatures (33 degrees) in the capital. With some 200 spectators who were not deterred by the unforgiving sun, and their determination to see the young stars was well worth the trip, as both sides put on an exciting show of masterful rugby.
It was the visiting side that opened the scoring, converting a straightforward penalty infront of poles. This inspired the hosts to respond as they soon went over the try line, to open their account for the afternoon. That try would not be converted, leaving the scores separated by a single point (5-6) all the way to the halftime break.
Upon return from the showers, an inspired Vodacom Bulls under-21 made early inroads to add more points to the board. The side were given an opportunity to dominate their hapless visitors after the Leopards saw two yellow cards in the space of 5minutes. Perhaps it was Nadine Jaarts’ dangerous tackle on Munashe Dukuzwa (earning him marching orders to the sin-bin) that turned the screws even more, as the Pretoria young outfit immediately capaitalised on the extra man, going over the line for another 5 points under poles, which was converted by Rowan Cloete.
The Vodacom Bulls under-21’s last nail to the Leopard coffin was a thing of beauty, when Franco Knoetze used his left boot to curl the ball from inside the Leopards’ 10m line, finding speedster, Quewin Nortje on the far left corner (with centimetres left before the ball left the field of play), to condemn the visitors to a 29-6 drubbing on the day – making it three from three, for the Vodacom Bulls under-21’s against the Potch side for the season.
The match wasn’t without drama as both sides had players sent to the sin bin for various infringements. But it was the visiting side who paid the biggest price for their two yellow cards, Jakkie Eloff in the 44th minute and Nadine Jaarts in the 49th minute, versus one yellow card from the Vodacom Bulls, Hardus Rothmann in the 10th minute. Moments in the game that Leopards under-21 coach, Hannes Esterhuizen, says was instrumental to his side’s disappointing afternoon on the park.
“We were in it from the beginning, with a good contest from both sides, but two yellow cards early in the second half really made it tough for us, playing against this quality that the Bulls have, we were always going to struggle playing 15 against 13,”
“We are sad that we couldn’t finish our campaign this season with a try because we have been a side that scores a bonus point try every game and to walk away without scoring here today is disappointing. All in all, it has been a good effort by the boys throughout the competition” Esterhuizen remarked.
Coach, Hayden Groepes was left overly impressed by his young side’s Friday outing, saying they deserved to have the extra day off (to recover) with their feet up watching the senior side play Munster on Saturday evening in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, in Ireland.
“Seeing that we have played on Friday, we do get the extra day to recover and we hope the boys will come back on Monday refreshed and give us a good showing,”
“Today was a good performance from our side but we still have plenty to work on. We have backed our process and we will just keep driving that same picture in the coming week. Nothing changes, we still going to focus on ourselves going into the final” concluded Groepes.
The Vodacom Bulls under-21 will learn of their next opponents on Saturday afternoon, where the DHL Western Province U21 host Lions U21 and the victor of that encounter will come face-to-face with the 2021 Champions, in what will be a home final for the Vodacom Bulls. An opportunity to defend their SA Rugby under-21 Cup crown, on home turf.
Vodacom Bulls under-21 scorers:
Tries – Tiaan Lange, Hanno Theunisen, Danwich Beukes, Quewin Nortje
Conversions – Tiaan Fourie: x2
Leopards under-21 scorers:
Penalties – Martin Venter: x2
VODACOM BULLS UNDER-21 STARTING XV:
1. Cebo Dlamini (c), 2. Tiaan Lange, 3. Sebastian Lombard, 4. Hanno Theunisen, 5. Marco De Witt, 6. Danwich Beukes, 7. Ghudian Van Reenen, 8. Hardus Rothmann, 9. Tiaan Fourie (c), 10. Rowan Cloete, 11. Quewin Nortje, 12. Carlton Banies, 13. Munashe Dukuzwa, 14. Tharquinn Manuel, 15. Franco Knoetze
VODACOM BULLS UNDER-21 IMPACT SQUAD:
16. Corne Lavagna, 17. Juann Else, 18. Mawande Mdanda, 19. Corne Beets, 20. Neels Volschenk, 21. Neil le Roux, 22. Compion von Ludwig, 23. Gert Steyn
VODACOM BULLS UNDER-21 MANAGEMENT:
Hayden Groepes – Head Coach; Edgar Marutlulle – Forwards & Defence Coach; Wessel Du Plessis – Head of Juniors, Kicking & Breakdown Coach; Prieur Le Grange – Technical Advisor; Hendy Seerane – Team Manager; Tshepo Mashigo – Logistics Manager; Limbi Seyani – Sport Scientist; Tayla Chidrawi – Strength and Conditioning; Dr Gerhard Louwrens – Doctor; Claudette Echard – Physiotherapist; Darryn Berry – Physiotherapist