PRETORIA – The Blue Bulls secured their place in the Currie Cup semi-finals with a hard fought 39-29 win over the Pumas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
It was the Bulls second consecutive bonus point win and the victory that sling shot them to the top of the Currie Cup log.
In a game that mirrored what transpired in Kimberley, the Bulls raced off to a 19-3 lead by the 23rd minute courtesy of three tries by captain Hanro Liebenberg, wing Jade Stighling and prop Dayan van der Westhuizen but all of that almost came to nothing as the men in blue released their foot off the accelerator to allow the Pumas to come within in just 10 minutes.
Having dealt well with the Pumas rolling mauls in the opening quarter of the game, the Bulls forwards capitulated in the 26th minute as Marnus Schoeman crashed over while Marko Janse van Rensburg scored an identical try six minutes later.
But the Bulls hit back in spectacular fashion immediately after Janse van Rensburg try as they latched onto possession from the kick-off and quickly took the ball through two phases before throwing the pass out wide to a waiting Stighling who picked up his brace.
The home side gave themselves some breathing space when flyhalf Manie Libbok slotted over a penalty on the cusp of the half-time interval to open up a 10 point lead.
The men in blue began the second half with the same intent as they did the first with Springbok scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl diving over after some clever interplay between himself and hooker Jaco Visagie from a short lineout.
The Pumas unrelenting spirit some them score a well-engineered try from a try from the halfway mark with centre Neil Maritz cantering over to keep the visitors within touching distance.
But it was the Bulls lethal attack that was the difference as Jano Venter finished off a well worked attack which started in their own half and had almost half the team get their hands on the ball.
The Pumas managed to score a consolation try at the death running from their own try-line for wing Morne Joubert to score their bonus point try and still leave them with a slim chance of making the play-off through the back door.
Results and scorers:
Blue Bulls (27) 39
Tries: Hanro Liebenberg, Jade Stighling (2), Dayan van der Westhuizen, Ivan van Zyl, Jano Venter. Conversions: Manie Libbok (3). Penalty: Manie Libbok. Yellow card: Johnny Kotze (15th minute)
Pumas (17) 29
Tries: Marnus Schoeman, Marko Janse van Rensburg, Neil Maritz, Morne Joubert. Conversions: Chris Smith (3). Penalty: Chris Smith