Bulls beat Lions to book ticket to Christchurch
The Bulls raised their game in the second half to beat struggling neighbours the Lions 37-20 in their Super Rugby match on Saturday and qualify for a playoff against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The three-time champions struggled in the first half, which ended with the scores level 20-20, but rallied to score two tries in the first 10 minutes of the second to set up victory and clinch fifth place in the final standings.
The Lions, with relegation from Super Rugby hanging over their heads, came out roaring for their possible last appearance, dominating the Bulls in the scrums and breaking through tackles.
But they were once again frustrated by the errors that have characterised their campaign, Bulls wing Akona Ndungane taking advantage of flatfooted passing down the backline to intercept and score the opening try in the 16th minute.
Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies kicked two penalties to keep the visitors in touch at 6-10 down until the half-hour, when their defence failed, two men going for Bulls scrumhalf Francois Hougaard as he darted from the base of a five-metre scrum, allowing wing Bjorn Basson to burst through a huge gap and score.
The Lions were trailing 6-17, but they bounced back superbly as tenacious scrumhalf Michael Bondesio ran straight through Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn to score from a five-metre scrum and, although the visitors then presented Steyn with an easy penalty after a ruck infringement, an excellent dash down the left touchline by wing Anthony Volmink gave the Lions a lineout feed five metres from the tryline.
The Lions had struggled to secure their own lineout ball throughout the first half, but this time lock Hendrik Roodt took the ball and captain Josh Strauss was at the front of the drive over the line.
Jantjies converted the try from the touchline to draw the Lions level and leave the Bulls needing a much-improved second half to keep their campaign alive.
The Lions had an early reprieve in the second half when a Steyn penalty hit the upright, but the Bulls forwards stepped up their intensity and simply overwhelmed the Lions, who were unable to get out of their own territory.
Four minutes after the break, outside centre JJ Engelbrecht went on a superb, mazy run, while hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle punched the ball up well in midfield to set up a ruck, from which Hougaard broke and ran in a try from 25 metres out.
Four minutes later, the Lions were powerless to stop a succession of forward drives by the Bulls, with flank Jacques Potgieter having an easy run-in for the try.
Fullback Zane Kirchner, under pressure from front-rankers Martin Bezuidenhout and JC Janse van Rensburg, made a mess of dotting down for a fifth try in the 60th minute, but the Springbok then won an up-and-under to set up another penalty for Steyn that completed the scoring.