Lionel Mapoe celebrates his try. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)
The Bulls made it three trophies from four tournaments since September 2020 as they stormed their way to a second Currie Cup title in a calendar year with an emphatic 44-10 dismantling of the Sharks at Loftus on Saturday evening.
As it happened | Currie Cup final – Bulls v Sharks
Jake White’s maturing side had produced a wondrous first half performance in last week’s semi-final victory over Western Province, but that was eclipsed in this showpiece match, a showing that would make an excellent template of how to play finals rugby.
A five-try-to-nil scoreline would suggest that the Bulls were freewheeling and expansive though that was nowhere near the case.
Instead, they focused on doing the “unfashionable” basics well – bossing the gainline battle, kicking astutely from hand and pouncing ruthlessly on the counter.
Neatly, in a week where Bulls defence guru Joey Mongalo had to provide perspective on why defences overall in this season’s tournament were decidedly leaky, the home side produced a magnificent tackling effort.
Their rush tacklers were suffocating, while the defenders in the wider channels were composed and purposeful, regularly isolating Sharks attackers who simply didn’t have time for an effective off-load or to wait for supporting cleaners.
As a result, the Durbanites were left thoroughly demoralised at half-time, where they had a single penalty to show for 66% possession and the majority of territory.
In stark contrast, the Bulls found their foothold on the scoreboard by exploiting two instances of poor Sharks defending.
Both times inside centre Jeremy Ward, a late inclusion into the starting line-up for Marius Louw, shot out of his line, allowing the influential midfield pairing of Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe to streak through yawning gaps.
At 12-0, the Sharks were in trouble as the Bulls skilfully absorbed the pressure, gradually gaining the ascendancy.
Skipper Marcell Coetzee, ever present on the openside, benefited from a smart tap penalty from halfback Zak Burger, barging over from a subsequent tap decision.
By that stage, the Bulls were also starting to disrupt the Sharks on their own line-out throws, painting a dark omen for the second half.
And so it proved.
Lock Janko Swanepoel scored after a superb aerial bomb from flyhalf Chris Smith – who deputised superbly for Covid-stricken Johan Goosen – was tapped back before Elrigh Louw, rampaging at No 8, provided the momentum for the try.
Burger threw a sublime dummy from a breakdown for his visit behind the whitewash before the irrepressible Cornal Hendricks concluded another outstanding campaign with a toe ahead and brilliant gather for the late show-stopper.
It was no less than the Bulls deserved.
For the Sharks, nothing went right – exemplified by Werner Kok’s night at outside centre.
He was lucky not to be sent to the sin bin for a no-arms tackle on Louw before he eventually did receive his marching orders with five minutes remaining for a cynical infringement at a ruck.
Their only score came from the Bulls only big mistake on the night, an overthrown line-out.
Bulls – 44 (19)
Tries: Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Marcell Coetzee, Janko Swanepoel, Zak Burger, Cornal Hendricks
Conversions: Chris Smith (4)
Sharks – 10 (3)
Try: Thomas du Toit
Conversion: Curwin Bosch