Bulls lift Currie Cup in thriller
October 31, 2009
The Bulls won the Currie Cup at Loftus Versfeld
© Getty Images
The Blue Bulls have completed a perfect season by defeating the Free State Cheetahs 36-24 in the Currie Cup final at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
The Bulls went one better than last season and added the Currie Cup title to their Super 14 crown secured in May despite a gallant fightback from 24-0 down by the Cheetahs.
Springbok wing Bryan Habana scored two tries in his final game for the Bulls before joining Western Province and his efforts were backed up by another try from Francois Hougaard. Fly-half Morne Steyn kept his amazing season going with 21 points and was well served by the outstanding Fourie du Preez.
The Cheetahs showed great character to get back in to the contest, with Frans Viljoen, Corne Uys and Nico Breedt scoring tries for the Bloemfontein side.
The visitors started as they meant to go on with Ashley Johnson showing his pace and power with a telling early burst that was well marshalled by the Bulls defence. A shuddering hit by Victor Matfield turned over possession and the Bulls launched in to a flowing attack that brought the first try.
Wynand Olivier straightened through the Cheetahs line, linking with Steyn who drew the last man before passing inside to hooker Derick Kuun. Kuun had a free run to the line but was caught in a miraculous tackle by Lionel Mapoe and held up over the line. Nevertheless the penalty went to the home side, and du Preez picked out a cross-kick straight in to the arms of Hougaard who couldn't miss.
Steyn added the conversion before Potgieter missed his first shot at goal. The Bulls-bound fly-half found a gap with ball in hand though and continued to lead the Cheetahs' attack.
Despite dominating possession and territory his side fell further behind when Habana pounced. A Cheetahs knock on allowed Matfield to spin the ball wide, with du Preez rescuing the move after an errant offload from Zane Kirchner. The scrum-half stood up the last defender and set Habana free to coast in.
Habana's afternoon got even better when he latched on to the end of an intelligent box-kick by du Preez, beating some laboured Cheetahs chasers to the ball and scoring the Bulls' third try inside 20 minutes. Deon Stegmann was instrumental in stealing the ball and the Cheetahs were shell-shocked as the Loftus faithful cranked up the noise.
Steyn landed a monster penalty to extend the lead to 24-0 but the Cheetahs finally found a response. Hennie Daniller was the architect with a scything break and once the forwards had pounded away at the Bulls line and won a scrum, the ball was shipped to Viljoen at pace and the blindside collected well to crash over.
Danwel Demas attacked from his own try-line from the kick-off, with his wing partner Mapoe continuing the movement with a chip ahead. Spies could only hack the ball dead, allowing the Cheetahs to set up camp on the Bulls' five-metre line. They looked to have passed up their chance when du Preez kicked the ball clear from an offside position but JP Joubert took a quick tap and some deft hands from Brussow sent Uys over in the corner.
Steyn heralded the half-time hooter by slotting a drop-goal and added a penalty minutes after the break to calm the hosts' nerves. The Cheetahs' scrum dragged them back in to the game again, with their heralded front-row decimating the Bulls' tight-five to turn over possession. Wian du Preez was instrumental. Viljoen emerged with the ball and Brussow produced another fine offload to put Breedt in to score.
Potgieter converted and landed a drop-goal to bring the Cheetahs to within seven. He was wide with a second attempt after Kuun had gifted the Cheetahs position with some backchat to referee Jonathan Kaplan and the Bulls duly pulled clear again with a penalty from Steyn's boot. The Bulls man did show his human side by letting off a piece of indiscipline by Joubert, missing his first kick of the afternoon.
He atoned for that miss by increasing the lead to 12 points with his next shot and the Cheetahs' effort was ended when replacement hooker Richardt Strauss was sin-binned for foul language.
Blue Bulls: Zane Kirchner; Francois Hougaard, Jaco Pretorius, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana; Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Gurthrö Steenkamp, Derick Kuün, Werner Kruger, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield (capt), Deon Stegmann, Dewald Potgieter, Pierre Spies
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Rossouw de Klerk, Danie Rossouw, Pedrie Wannenburg, Heini Adams, Burton Francis, Gerhard van den Heever
Free State Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller; Lionel Mapoe, Corne Uys, Meyer Bosman, Danwel Demas; Jacques-Louis Potgieter, JP Joubert; Wian du Preez, Adriaan Strauss (capt), WP Nel, Nico Breedt, David de Villiers, Heinrich Brussow, Frans Viljoen, Ashley Johnson
Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Izak van der Westhuizen, Kabamba Floors, Tewis de Bruyn, Louis Strydom, Fabian Juries