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Late Pollard penalty earns Bulls Super Rugby double over Sharks

30 March 2019 - 17:37 By Khanyiso Tshwaku
Cornal Hendricks celebrates after Jesse Kriel scored a try for the Vodacom Bulls during a Super Rugby match against the Cell C Sharks at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban on March 30 2019.
Cornal Hendricks celebrates after Jesse Kriel scored a try for the Vodacom Bulls during a Super Rugby match against the Cell C Sharks at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban on March 30 2019.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

In the end, history will say the Bulls earned Super Rugby double against the Sharks with a 19-16 win at Kings Park.

How it was earned though was the ugly and the least memorable part but when it counted, the Bulls made the winning play.

With the scores tied at 16-all in the 78th minute, the Bulls earned a scrum penalty that Handre Pollard converted to push the Bulls to second in the South African conference.

However, it was a forgettable game in every respect, even by the tepid standards of SA's normally turgid Super Rugby derbies.

The first half was an anaemic horror show of the Oval ball, one that reminds fans not to waste their hard-earned rands by going to King's Park.

The heat and humidity may have been a factor but the Sharks have seemingly dispensed with anything that remotely resembles entertainment.

The hosts were understandably tense for this game after the shellacking they received in the corresponding fixture on March 9.

However, the caution in which the sides approached the game did the crowd no good.

The Bulls; clearly wounded after having to helplessly watch on as the Chiefs ransacked their Loftus Versfeld home, were even more mindful of gifting the Sharks the space the Chiefs made use of.

There were no tries and the three penalties from Pollard (two) and Robert du Preez (one) separated the teams.

However, a moment of officiating controversy was the highlight of the first stanza in the eighth minute.

Louis Schreuder's box kick didn't look to have made contact with the touchline in real-time and from Pollard's inability to collect the kick, Aphelele Fassi got the ball and passed to Daniel du Preez, who then scored.

Referee Mike Fraser referred the matter to television match official Christie du Preez, who ruled the ball was out.

It was the kind of call that needed Hawkeye Line Calling System available in tennis but even on the replays, the call looked to be inconclusive.

Barring that and Lukhanyo Am displaying the necessary subtleties of outside centre play that his physical and one-dimensional Bulls counterpart Jesse Kriel struggled to conjure up, there was nothing else to write home about with the Sharks not able to convert their territorial dominance into something more tangible on the scoreboard.

The Bulls were seemingly content to soak up the pressure; probably a mental way of redeeming themselves after being cut up like hot bread repeatedly by the Chiefs last week.

The Sharks made their second half intentions clear when they scored a minute after the restart through Dan du Preez. The game's first try had its roots in Bulls fullback Divan Rossouw not collecting a kick, from where the Sharks for once accurately executed their offloading game.

The Bulls though bounced back with the 52nd minute from Kriel after Robert du Preez was run over by Bulls inside centre Burger Odendaal from first phase ball from a scrum.

The offload found Kriel running an excellent line into space and scored his 19th Super Rugby try.

The eventful second stanza took another twist when the opposing hookers in Akker van der Merwe and Schalk Brits were sent off for an off-the-ball brawl in the 57th minute. Cohesion continued to evade the teams but Andre Esterhuizen's 72nd minute try that was set-up by Am's incision levelled up the scores.

Robert du Preez, who had a forgettable game like most of the other players, missed the crucial conversion.

The scrum penalty that Pollard converted not only put into perspective Robert du Preez's off-day with the boot with seven points missed, but the generally inaccuracies of the teams despite the Bulls getting the four points.