The Vodacom Bulls’ under-21 side successfully defended their SA Rugby under-21 Cup crown, playing against spirited Gauteng rivals, Lions under-21 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, in Pretoria.
The home side dotted down five tries in their 41-26 victory.
Going into the clash as defending champions, the Vodacom Bulls dominated the opening 20 minutes, going over the line for a converted try and soon following that with a converted penalty kick by Tiaan Fourie from 5m inside the Lions’ 50m line.
The noisy visitors from the other side of the Jukskei – with some 150-odd fans on the stands – found a way to get onto the scoreboard, with a converted try with 13 minutes left to play in the first half. That wasn’t lived long, with the Vodacom Bulls young stars responding immediately, with Franco Knoetze making a 45m break for the try line on the far end of the grandstand, which was also converted by Tiaan Fourie.
The hosts would stretch their lead to 17 with Compion von Ludwig adding five more points in the last minutes of the first stanza, a try that Fourie would convert once again. It was the visitors who would have the last say going into the break, going over the line for a converted try in the last minute of the half.
Going into the break, the two sides were separated by 12 points.
Straight after the start, the visitors drew first blood, scoring and converting a try that would bring them to within 5 points of the Vodacom Bulls. Over the next 20 minutes, the Lions defended diligently, piling pressure on the hosts. Eventually, the visiting side would break the seal, going over the line near the poles, for an easily convertible try, seeing them lead the match for the first time in the tie, with 20 minutes left on the board.
That riled up the hosts who immediately responded in kind, going over the line through Tiaan Lange. The try would not be converted, and only 3 points would separate the sides inside the final 18 minutes of play. 8 minutes later, the hosts would extend their lead, through a six-phased Marco De Witt try. The kick would narrowly miss the target but the defending champions still enjoyed an 8-point lead with 10 minutes to play.
With 3 minutes left in the game, the defending champions would seal their fate with a Tiaan Lange converted try, to secure a 15-point victory.
The victory means the Vodacom Bulls now hold the SA under-19, SA under-20 and SA under-21 crowns, as well as the Young Guns title through Tukkies. An achievement that the President of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union, Willem Strauss, credits to a strong development system.
“To have every trophy of the professional junior structures, here at Loftus, is an incredible and probably unmatched achievement. Testament to the works of all those involved with our junior programmes,”
“Brilliant work done by this under-21 side, the victory is the cherry on top after a hard season. This ensures we are the reigning champions across the board. Hard work pays off and we couldn’t be prouder of all the boys” concluded Strauss.
Coach of the Vodacom Bulls under-21 side, Hayden Groepes, said: “It was a hard-fought battle, for 80 minutes, we certainly had some ascendency against them and we used it very well,”
“We have had 21 weeks of preparations and I thought for the boys to stick to that through this period has been amazing. The win means that much more because a few of the boys will be moving on and those that will be staying on will be making this club stronger, so for us to break this group in this manner is special” concluded Groepes.
Forwards and defence coach, Edgar Marutlulle has applauded the Vodacom Bulls junior system for feeding South African rugby with talented players.
“This is an incredible achievement, for the Bulls and those who are involved with the junior structures. We have to keep going, and continue producing talented players as we see the likes of Crusaders and Leinster, making sure the senior team continues to receive a good influx of national players,”
There is no break for the victorious, as Edgar already has his sights on the under-19 competition.
“We have 14 under-19 players in our squad and so we now ready ourselves to return on Monday and work hard towards being ready to begin the under-19 competition which begins with a visit to the Cape” concludes Marutlulle.
Vodacom Bulls under-21 scorers:
Tries – Tiaan Lange x2, Marco de Witt x1, Compion von Ludwig x1, Franco Knoetze x 1
Conversions – Tiaan Fourie x 4
Penalty – Franco Knoetze x 1
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. Compion von Ludwig, 11. Quewin Nortje, 12. Carlton Banies, 13. Munashe Dukuzwa, 14. Tharquinn Manuel, 15. Franco Knoetze
VODACOM BULLS UNDER-21 IMPACT SQUAD:
16. Juann Else, 17. Corne Lavagna, 18. Mawande Mdanda, 19. Merwe Olivier, 20. Neels Volschenk, 21. Neil le Roux, 22. Corne Beets, 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