Bulls surprise Western Province
A Jean Cook try in the penultimate minute saw the Blue Bulls grab a 24-all draw against Western Province at Newlands on Saturday.
Up against a Bulls team that contained four debutants and just five members of the matchday 22 from the Bulls' last Currie Cup match, Province were expected to ease through the encounter despite the absence of their Springboks.
However, Allister Coetzee's men did not find the going easy, particularly at scrum time where they were thoroughly dominated by the Bulls tight five.
It was the hosts who opened the scoring in the ninth minute, with Gio Aplon jinking his way over the whitewash. The full-back made the most of Western Province's first foray into opposition territory with first some good work from Deon Fourie and then Louis Schreuder who made further ground after taking a quick tap. The ball was worked wide to Aplon who darted inside and under the waiting defence.
Bulls fly-half Tony Jantjies opened his side's account with a penalty in the 15th minute after Rynhardt Elstadt was penalised for taking out the supporting players at a line-out.
Indeed, the opening quarter was permeated by errors and penalties, with a number of errand passes and moments of ill-discipline.
It was the hosts who ended the first 20 minutes strongly, with centre Pat Howard notching up his first Currie Cup try as he punched through a gap in midfield and stepped passed the final defender.
The Bulls stuck to their guns and after notching up a string of phases that went well into double figures, Jantjies added three more points to their account after Fourie was - not for the first time - penalised.
Aplon nearly had his second on the stroke of half-time after a cute chip over the top. However, the ball deceived both the Springbok and Bulls full-back Jurgen Visser and Jantjies was on hand to boot the ball into touch and bring the half to a halt.
It was the Bulls fly-half that had the first say in the second period, notching up his third penalty after Elstadt did not release the tackled player.
With the score now 14-9, the deficit reduced to just five points and the Bulls having 65% of possession, Province needed to get back to playing rugby rather than waiting for things to happen and they did just that as Nizaam Carr crashed over for their third try in the 58th minute.
The number eight's try came after a good rolling maul was brought down just short of the line, the ball was spread wide to Howard who cut inside and found himself just five from the line. The ball was recycled to Carr who went in under the posts. Van Aswegen's third conversion put the score out to 21-9.
The Bulls hit back ten minutes later when Francois Venter dotted down in the corner after 12 phases of hard graft from the Bulls forwards. The conversion took the visitors to within five points and Jantjies had a chance to cut the lead to two when Province offered up a penalty at scrum time. The fly-half was wayward for the first time but made no mistake minutes later when Fourie notched up yet another penalty.
It was nervous times for the home side but the nail-biting would have abated somewhat when Van Aswegen pushed the lead out to five with a penalty in the 77th minute.
They would have been wrong to have relaxed though, with the Bulls almost immediately surging into opposition territory. It was Cook who rounded off the good work from many of his team-mates, bulldozing down the near touchline and over for the score.
Jantjies' conversion from out wide would have put the Bulls ahead with time all but up, but he pushed it to the right. With time for the restart, both teams had their chance to make the decisive break, but having faced pressure from the home side, Clayton Blommetjies booted the ball into touch with hooter having sounded minutes earlier/
For Western Province:
Tries:Aplon, Howard, Carr
Con: Van Aswegen 3
Pens: Van Aswegen
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Venter, Cook
Pens: Jantjies 4
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie (capt), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Alistair Vermaak, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Ruan Kitshoff, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Berton Klaasen.
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Rudi Paige, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Marcell van der Merwe, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.
Kick-off:17:05 (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge