Bulls and Gelant rain on Sharks' parade
The Bulls last night ruthlessly dismantled the Sharks in appalling Durban conditions that ought to have favoured the home team's direct, confrontational approach.
It was a Super Rugby clash of playing culture with the Bulls gravitating to space in the first quarter, masterfully manipulating the Sharks' defence to achieve that aim.
They took an early lead when the going was still good and drove in the dagger when the game was well out of the Sharks' grasp.
The brilliant Warrick Gelant scored a hat-trick of tries and the Bulls again showed that there is considerably more to them than what at times seems like a happy-go-lucky look about their attack.
There is substance too, and when the going got tough - in this case a soaking wet field - the Bulls forwards dug in.
Their lineout was a little wonky in the atrocious conditions, but they asserted themselves in the scrum and exacted some crucial turnovers when they needed to.
Loosehead Pierre Schoeman's stock continues to rise, lock Lood de Jager was prominent, especially early on, while hooker Adriaan Strauss, in his 150th Super Rugby appearance, delivered another honest shift.
Moreover, the Bulls also drew the sting from the Sharks' attack with resolute defence, particularly when the Sharks tried to play themselves back into the contest in the latter part of the first half.
Coming off a bye after beating the Stormers, the Bulls looked rejuvenated, while the Sharks looked jaded from their travels to Australasia.
The initial cloudy and blustery weather took a turn for the worse as soft penetrative rain soaked the surface. It should have proved manna from heaven for the Sharks, but the Bulls have extended their areas of competence at this level under the coaching of John Mitchell. The Sharks may appear to be better staffed, but it was the Bulls who looked the better-tooled team.
Behind a pack that didn't give an inch Handre Pollard again pulled all the right strings as the Sharks spluttered from one error to the next.
They weren't alone.
You'd expect with a name like Egon Seconds the referee would have a good concept of time, but he was quite the opposite. His preoccupation with referring to the television match official matters that had missed his own real-time scrutiny infuriated an already tetchy crowd.
Bulls (21) 40
Sharks: Try: Andre Esterhuizen. Conversion: Robert du Preez. Penalty: Du Preez.
Bulls: Tries: Warrick Gelant (3), Adriaan Strauss, a penalty try, Johny Kotze. Conversions: Handre Pollard (3), Manie Libbok.