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Bulls dominate Sharks in Loftus cauldron

Stuart Hess Sports reporter
Bulls player Stedman Gans during the United Rugby Championship match between against Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on December 02, 2023.
Bulls player Stedman Gans during the United Rugby Championship match between against Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on December 02, 2023.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

With the temperature gauges hitting 35 °C, the Bulls turned up the heat even further on the Sharks, to claim a dominant 44-10 win in a United Rugby Championship clash at Loftus on Saturday. 

It was a day better spent at the beach than on the Highveld, and the hosts left their coastal rivals all at sea, particularly in a dominant first half.

Having trailed 27-3 at the break, the Sharks delivered a spirited fightback at the start of the second half, but lacked the craft to score more than just a penalty try, with the Bulls adding to four first-half touchdowns, with two more in the second half. 

In a match laden with Springbok World Cup winning talent, Bulls eighthman Cameron Hanekom featured prominently.

The home crowd briefly set aside provincial rivalry to celebrate the Webb Ellis Cup champions on both sides, but Hanekom, 21, provided proof the future is looking very good too.

He would undoubtedly have been inspired by the success of Eben Etzebeth, Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am and Ox Nche and some of his own teammates, Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse.

Hanekom put in a performance that showed he was desperate to match their achievements. 

His defence was robust and he provided the Bulls with plenty of go-forward, including a pair of offloads that led to tries. 

The Sharks flickered briefly to start the match with Jaden Hendrickse chipping over the top to set them on their way and while Curwin Bosch was able to slot an early penalty, there was little else for the visitors to celebrate in the opening stanza. 

Instead the Bulls turned the screw, their first try resulting from a solid scrum from which a skip pass by Johan Goosen, freed up Moodie down the right touchline. Steadman Gans, ran a smart support line and then outstripped the cover defence to send the main grandstand into raptures. 

Gans doubled up a short while later, this time the Bulls line-out maul providing the momentum, with the centre again running a clever angle to dot down next to the posts. 

The first of Hanekom’s assists — in which he busted through two Sharks defenders — saw him offload to Arendse, who stepped past Etzebeth before he dived over to score. 

Akker van der Merwe, delivered another characteristically bustling performance, crossing for the bonus-point try on the stroke of halftime. 

The introduction of Nche after the interval briefly energised the visitors, who regularly crossed the advantage line and were awarded a penalty try after Bulls prop Gerhard Steenkamp was adjudged to have collapsed the maul. 

But the Sharks failed to build on that momentum and the Bulls gradually reasserted their dominance at the line-out and scrum, with Hanekom again delivering a fine assist allowing his skipper Elrigh Louw to charge over the line. 

There was time for Van der Merwe to score a second try with balletic spring to catch a well judged chip kick from Goosen, to cap off a fine performance by the home team. 

Having won five of their seven URC matches this season, their attention switches to the Champions Cup, and a match against Saracens next week.

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