Bulls captain Lizo Gqoboka emerged for the post-match TV interview looking like someone who had just gone 12 rounds as a heavyweight boxer, but he was still smiling.
Cape Town – Bulls captain Lizo Gqoboka emerged for the post-match TV interview looking like someone who had just gone 12 rounds as a heavyweight boxer, but he was still smiling.
That was because his team had managed to hold off a rampant Lions in the second half and secure a 43-37 bonus-point victory that saw them go back to the top of the Currie Cup log on 42 points, one ahead of the Cheetahs – who still have a game in hand with two rounds to go.
But it was a monumental effort by Gqoboka and the rest of his forwards that put the Bulls on the front foot to set up a 35-10 lead at one stage. The Springbok prop led by example, putting in massive tackles, carrying the ball with power and producing a few offloads as well.
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It was Gqoboka’s best performance in a Bulls jersey in a while, considering his previous injuries and lack of opportunity in the United Rugby Championship side.
He was well assisted by fellow Bok Bismarck du Plessis, while lock Janko Swanepoel and flanks Jaco Labuschagne and Reinhardt Ludwig drove what was effectively a Lions URC side backwards.
The Johannesburg side then scored 27 points to three to make it 38-37 with five minutes on the clock, before a comedy of errors saw Lions captain Burger Odendaal pass the ball straight into the arms of Bulls replacement back Richard Kriel in the in-goal area, and he dotted down to clinch the win.
“It was really tight. We let them come back, and one of the work-ons for us is definitely discipline. We had a fantastic first half, but we must just make sure that we play for the full 80,” Gqoboka, sporting a swollen right eye and a cotton swab in his bleeding right nostril, told SuperSport TV.
“But really proud of a young side that came out like that. Everyone put their hand up, and it was definitely not a lack of effort – just discipline is our biggest work-on.”
Bulls Currie Cup coach Gert Smal added in the post-match press conference: “I am just very proud of the guys… the way that they applied themselves, and they just got stuck in.
“You could see that there was not one guy hiding away. They tried to close as much as they can – especially when we got those yellow cards – and they put their bodies on the line.
“Especially if you look at Lizo, he looked like a real warrior today, if you see what his face looks like.
“That’s what you want from players, and hopefully we can keep that kind of attitude in our make-up and in our set up with each and every individual.”
For Lions mentor Ivan van Rooyen, it was another case of a missed opportunity as they registered a 10 th consecutive defeat.
They had fielded a largely inexperienced team up to now under Currie Cup head Mziwakhe Nkosi, but URC boss Van Rooyen took charge of this game and utilised his big guns.
And following the first-half disaster, the Lions roared back in the second half, but couldn’t finish things off in the end.
“Unfortunately, that first 40 just wasn’t good enough. Consistency, two yellow cards in the first 40 minutes – it almost feels like a headless chicken: guys running around, scrambling. Just didn’t feel that we managed to get our grip on the tempo of the game, and get it into what we really want to do,” Van Rooyen said.
“But obviously a lot better in the second half, but not good enough over the total 80 minutes.
“In the first five minutes, we started well… pressure on. We probably went out of plan a little bit – that first 20-minute mindset was a little bit different than what we saw on the pitch. So, the discipline was a little bit inconsistent.
“You lose a wing (Stean Pienaar to a yellow card), and Bulls scored in that side… good usage of that. We expect better, definitely.”
Bulls 43 – Tries: Lizo Gqoboka, Bismarck du Plessis, David Kriel, Janko Swanepoel, Stedman Gans, Richard Kriel. Conversions: Juan Mostert (5). Penalty: Keagan Johannes (1).
Lions 37 – Tries: Ruben Schoeman, Burger Odendaal, Francke Horn, Jordan Hendrikse, Sibusiso Sangweni. Conversions: Hendrikse (3). Penalties: Hendrikse (2).