The Cell C Sharks opened their account in the 2014 Super Rugby competition on a hot and humid evening with a 31-16 bonus point victory over the Bulls with a dominant display of all-round rugby.
Pat Lambie struck first blood with a well taken penalty, but it didn’t take the Vodacom Bulls long to equalise with Louis Fouche sending over a drop-goal after penalty advance was given.
A perfect pass to Lwazi Mvovo saw the wing finding himself in a massive gap in the midfield and with pace to burn, he made 30 m before offloading to Paul Jordaan who was too quick for the retreating defence and the Sharks had the first try of the match.
Fouche added a penalty, but a controversial lineout saw Cobus Reinach snatch up a hastily-flung pass under pressure but the TMO was happy to award his try.
The Bulls enjoyed a good period on attack when they were pushing for a try, enjoying a sustained attack, but some resolute defence from the home side kept the tryline intact.
The dominance continued from the home side as they lost possession on attack but then regained it, quick thinking sent a long cross-field kick to Odwa Ndungane who fielded the ball, managed to evade the touchline as he carried a tackler over the tryline to score the third try in the corner. Pat Lambie converted from out wide and the Sharks took a well-deserved 23-9 lead at the break.
Fouche had an opportunity to put early points on the board in the second half but pushed the ball wide as the visitors’ woes continued. A couple of minutes later, Victor Matfield came on after a two year retirement as the Bulls obviously worked out that they were in trouble.
Pat Lambie extended his team’s lead to 17 points with a third penalty and there was a sense that despite their dominance on the scoreboard, they were starting to put even more pressure on the Bulls whose error rate continued to climb.
However, the game entered a lull during the middle parts of the second half and the Bulls were able to maul over for a try typical of their style of play. With the conversion it took them to 10 points within the home team and the danger of conceding a bonus point for losing by seven points or less.
The final few minutes were tense as the Sharks went in search of the bonus point try. The visitors lost their wing and a man down, were unable to stop the juggernaut that smashed them, with Patrick Lambie dancing through two tackles to score the fourth try.
Crowd: 34 000
Sharks: 31 (23)
Tries: Paul Jordaan, Cobus Reinach, Odwa Ndungane, Patrick Lambie
Conversions: Patrick Lambie (1)
Penalties: Patrick Lambie (3)
Bulls: 16 (9)
Tries: Jono Ross
Conversions: Handre Pollard (1)
Penalties: Louis Fouche (2)
Drop-goal: Louis Fouche (1)