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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Warrick Gelant © Gallo Images

Gelant sets up dominant Bulls

Warrick Gelant underlined his class with a hat-trick of tries as the Vodacom Bulls killed off talk of a Cell C Sharks resurgence with a thumping 40-10 win in their Vodacom Super Rugby derby at Kings Park on Saturday evening.

The Bulls fullback crossed the line to clinch his hat-trick two minutes before the hooter but the two Gelant tries that set the tone for the game and the Bulls’ comprehensive win were scored before the match was 10 minutes old.

The Sharks had played inspiring rugby in their two matches in New Zealand before returning home from their four-match tour and when Robert du Preez kicked a penalty after just two minutes the game was going according to the script that many of the home fans would have been hoping for.

That though was where any Sharks hope appeared to fade. For after that it really was just all the Bulls.

There were several features of the Bulls’ play that stood out on the night.

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One of them was undeniably their defence, with the team from Pretoria reading the Sharks like a book and correctly figuring out that the Sharks rely heavily for any success on driving momentum for their forward pack and on the thrust big centre Andre Esterhuizen gets across the gainline.

With the Bulls forwards fronting in a manner that the Blues and Hurricanes weren’t able to in the two matches played in New Zealand, and with the Esterhuizen threat cut down by a Bulls defence that was far more aggressive than the Sharks’ was, the Sharks were made to look horribly one-dimensional.

Sound familiar? It was the impression the Sharks gave when they lost two games in Australia on their way to their two more impressive performances on New Zealand soil, and the Bulls’ Kiwi coach John Mitchell clearly did his homework on what worked against the Sharks in those games.

The Sharks looked like they just never pitched for work, but in reality it was the Bulls who just never allowed them to.

Once the Bulls had ground out a big lead and a penalty try had made the buffer 18 points with just over 30 minutes to go, the Bulls’ tactics were to just play the ball as often as possible into the Sharks’ half and force the home team to have to play from the wrong parts of the field.

It was a tactic that worked perfectly, particularly as it coincided with an intensification of the rainfall on a wet night, and if the truth were to be told, the Bulls had shut the Sharks out of this game long before the hooter brought it to an end.

It all started for the Bulls though with the way they exploited the space behind the Sharks with kicks early in the game.

Just like Elton Jantjies had done with the Stormers the week before, Bulls No 10 Handre Pollard used the kick as a form of attack, as did Gelant, and it was the key to the two tries that put the Bulls into a 14-3 lead after just nine minutes.


The road to the first try started with big Lood de Jager crashing the ball up to the gainline and Pollard executing a little hoist kick over the advancing defenders for Gelant to pluck out of the air and ground beyond the try-line.

Incidentally, in the build-up to that score the Bulls lost No 8 Hanro Liebenberg to injury, something that made their big away win even more noteworthy.

One of the strengths of the Bulls this year is that they have become a team under Mitchell who can be almost as dangerous in their own 22 as they are in the opposition’s red zone.

That proved the case with the next try, with the Sharks overthrowing a lineout deep in the Bulls’ half and the Bulls ending up scoring at the other end.

The thrust forward started with a well-executed grubber down the left flank and then when the ball was transferred to the right to where the space was, Gelant accurately summed up that his opposite number Curwin Bosch wasn’t at home and he was always going to run the race for the ball once he grubbered it through.

The Sharks are the one South African team that struggles to make their home ground a fortress and there is a theory that is growing credence that they feel the pressure more at Kings Park than they do elsewhere.

Certainly their 11 point deficit should have been a cue for them to throw caution to the winds, but they struggled to get out of first gear.

Much of that was down to the Bulls’ excellent defence, but the Shark also looked flustered and nervy.

They desperately needed something to energise them but instead Adriaan Strauss burrowed over off a driving maul and at 21-3 it was going to be a long way back for the Sharks.

The Sharks had a brief moment of hope when Esterhuizen got over for the only try scored by the hosts to make it 21-10 at halftime, but the Sharks just made too many elementary errors and their inability to hold onto the ball released any chance of them building up momentum.

Their night was probably summed up when Du Preez missed touch with a penalty just before the break.

The second-half penalty try, which was accompanied by the increase in what had been a drizzle that came and went during the first half into a steady shower, effectively killed off the game, particularly as the Bulls were so good at playing the conditions.

When Gelant crossed for his third try and then right wing Johnny Kotze crossed on the left off the final move of the game it was just a case of the visitors rubbing the Sharks’ noses in it as they completed a deserved bonus-point win.


Vodacom Bulls 40 – Tries: Warrick Gelant 3, Adriaan Strauss and Johnny Kotze; Penalty try; Conversions: Handre Pollard 3 and Manie Libbok .

Cell C Sharks 10 – Try: Andre Esterhuizen; Conversion: Robert du Preez; Penalty: Robert du Preez.


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