Ivan van Zyl dots down for his try (Gallo Images)
The Bulls’ media department labelled their team’s concluding Super Rugby Unlocked fixture against the Pumas as “The Last Dance”, a valiant attempt at sprucing up an event that wasn’t really going live up to much hype.
Jake White’s charges, who were assured of lifting the tournament trophy even before a ball was kicked in anger, duly claimed a 21-5 win at Loftus on Saturday, but that was about the only highlight.
The home side had played good, percentage-based rugby in the first 40 minutes, predominantly utilising their dominant pack to establish a 21-0 buffer, which would eventually prove sufficient enough as their effort fizzled out.
Winger Kurt-Lee Arendse opened the scoring with a nifty dart from close range after the Bulls made good progress from an efficient line-out and patient phase play.
They kept things pragmatically tight five minutes later again, going for touch and dominating the collision area before a flat pass from influential scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl to inside centre Cornal Hendricks created momentum for Chris Smith.
The flyhalf, earning a first start in the experienced Morne Steyn’s absence, still did well to muscled his way through three defenders to dot down.
Power was on display during the Bulls’ third try, where a second shove from their front row put the Pumas under pressure at a defensive scrum.
Effective phase play allowed Van Zyl to spot a gap and score.
Yet as dominant and accurate as the Bulls were in the first half, so wayward they were after the turnaround.
They were on the back foot for the first ten minutes as the Lowvelders showed renewed intent, evening out the forward battle and putting their hosts’ defence under pressure.
They were rewarded with a maul try for hooker HP van Schoor.
But the Pumas couldn’t quite translate that into a comeback as the Bulls regained enough initiative without proving much of a threat.
Mentor Jimmy Stonehouse though will be chuffed with an improved defensive effort, illuminated by some excellent work at the breakdowns.
The Bulls, meanwhile, would’ve rue a missed opportunity for the bonus point, but can still look forward to a solid foundation in the Currie Cup, which starts next week.
Bulls – (21) 21
Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Chris Smith, Ivan van Zyl
Conversions: Smith (3)
Pumas – (0) 5
Try: HP van Schoor