Sharks brush aside the Bulls
In a week where the long-term and often blurry effects of head knocks again came into sharp focus, the Sharks and the Bulls did their bit to keep the debate in the headlines.
By the 24th minute they had both lost a player to the sin bin for tackles that resulted in a clash of heads, as unintentional and innocuous it may have appeared.
After getting an explanation from referee Marius van der Westhuizen as to why Jacques van Rooyen, the second of the departees, had been banished, Blue Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen asked his Sharks' counterpart.
“So we start playing touchies,” Vermeulen rhetorically asked Lukhanyo Am.
In a match where the kickoff was brought forward in anticipation of the foul weather, load-shedding also contributed to the lights-out theme.
Not much made sense then and the match never really settled into a discernible pattern as both teams enjoyed brief periods of dominance.
Fortunes fluctuated for the first 50-odd minutes but then the Blue Bulls started delivering some telling blows.
Marco van Staden, who has enjoyed a stellar season since rugby's restart, again cut a towering figure in the crouched position at the ruck.
The Bulls 14-6 down gradually clawed their way back as they started winning the collisions and from the resultant pressure and errors committed by the Sharks, stalwart Morne Steyn greatly advanced the Bulls' cause off the kicking tee.
Just when it looked like the Bulls would take the match beyond the Sharks' reach, the home team dug deep and showed great resolve.
Curwin Bosch's cross kick to an unmarked Yaw Penxe for a converted try in the 76th minute got the Sharks in front.
Steyn had the opportunity to draw the match but missed his penalty attempt which meant the Bulls were resigned to just a second defeat since the game's restart.
The Bulls who had the measure of the Sharks in their Super Hero Sunday clash at the restart of the season, as well as their contest in Super Rugby Unlocked, looked set to continue the pattern in the opening minutes.
The Bulls also made inroads from their line-out drives as the Sharks became prone to silly errors.
Steyn got the Bulls ahead after eight minutes with a penalty after missing one earlier. Am operated in concert with S'bu Nkosi to help earn the Sharks a second 'kickable' penalty after they drew level in the 13th minute. Nkosi's offensive tackle on Stedman Gans helped earn the Sharks a penalty but it was on the edge of Bosch's range at sea level around 60m out.
Gradually however they found their footing. Props Ox Nche and Thomas du Toit grew increasingly influential but the latter left the field with a rib injury.
Generally though the Sharks' pack scrapped well and more than matched the much-vaunted Bulls' forwards.
SHARKS (14) 32
Tries: Lukhanyo Am, Kerron van Vuuren, Yaw Penxe. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalties: Bosch (5).
BLUE BULLS (9) 29
Tries: Marco van Staden, Cornal Hendricks. Conversions: Morne Steyn (2). Penalties: Steyn (5).