It was only befitting for South African rugby lovers, that the shortest Currie Cup season would have the longest ever final after the Bulls and Sharks needed extra time at the end of the 80 minutes to settle the tie. An empty Loftus Versfeld watched as the Pretoria based Bulls lifted the world’s oldest rugby trophy, for the first time since 2009.
The final was poised to be a thriller, and it did not disappoint. The Bulls had been dominant all season and the Sharks were really coming into their stride in the playoff stages. Curwin Bosch kicked the visitors into the lead with barely more than five minutes on the clock after a breakdown mistake from the Bulls. Both Bosch and the Bulls’, and former Springbok international, fly-half, Morné Steyn, traded missed penalties and wasted opportunities before Steyn slotted a long-range placed kick. Steyn converted another penalty for the Pretorian side to put them ahead.
Play was halted with a quarter of an hour left in the first half, due to lighting striking too close to the stadium, endangering players and coaching staff. When players were finally allowed to take to the field again, Bosch wasted no time in squaring the scored again as he slotted his second penalty of the afternoon. The scores tied once more at 6-6.
Cornal Hendricks was brought down by a high tackle shortly after a scrum, allowing Steyn to, once again, kick the Bulls into the lead. The occasion seemed too big for young Curwin Bosch as he put an attempted drop-goal as well as another penalty wide of the mark. With mere seconds left in the drawn out first half, the Sharks used their scrum advantage to launch a lightning quick attack from the Bulls’ 22. Aphele Fassi handed the ball to the speedy Sharks winger, Sbu Nkosi, who dove into the right-hand corner before Bosch straightened his bearings to convert the try. The Durban side went into the break 13-9 ahead.
Curwin Bosch came into his own in the second half, scoring two penalties to put his side further ahead. The Sharks enjoyed 10-minutes with a 10-point lead, before Bulls’ loose-forward, Arno Botha crossed the whitewash to score his side’s first try. The was converted and put the home side within touching distance of their opponents. Chris Smith came on to replace Morné Steyn and drew the teams level right at the death, before missing a chance to seal the match. The tie ended all-square at 19-all after 80 minutes, sending the match into extra-time.
The extra time period was hotly contested as both teams had their opportunities to win the game, but it was not until the 100th minute of the match, when Arno Botha crossed the try line for a second, and final, time to hand the Bulls their second trophy of the season. The game was wrapped up by a Chris Smith conversion, to make up for his earlier miss.
Bulls coach, Jake White, reflected on his side’s spirit and character after the game. “I’m proud of the way we stuck at it,” he said, “we had a chance on the hooter to win it, then they had a chance they didn’t take.” The experienced coach lauded his bench for their determination and reflected on his players’ performance, “We probably weren’t up for it in the beginning, but we found a way to win.”