South African's were eagerly glued to their TV Screens last night as, for the first time since the pandemic struck, one of our domestic sides faced a foreign opponent. However, disaster struck as the Blue Bulls were well outmatched in almost all facets of the game, ultimately losing to Benetton 35 - 8.
This was possibly the Bulls worst showing under Jake White and left many unanswered questions ahead of South Africa's entry into the United Rugby Championship. Whilst the Bulls only lost 3 players to the Springboks and had Duane Vermeulen out due to injury, they played more like their young Currie Cup side which took to the field earlier in the day.
Benetton played the game at a fast pace from the outset and scored their first try within 5 minutes through winger Monty Ioane. The Bulls struggled to impose themselves physically on the Italian side but had some relief as Madosh Tambwe crossed for them in the 26th minute. Benetton struck back almost instantly, however the try was disallowed. Reviews of the incident showed a high seat-belt tackle and a penalty try was subsequently awarded, whilst Stravino Jacobs was yellow card as the sides headed into the tunnel.
Benetton came out strong in the second half and stunned the Bulls, who were a man short, by scoring in the 42nd minute. The Italians then set about stringing together a clinical performance lead by their Flyhalf Paolo Garbisi. Garbisi was sublime in his performance and controlled the game well. He was strong on defence and was responsible for two try stopping tackles just as the Bulls were building momentum.
Benetton also featured some familiar faces as scrumhalf Dewald Duvenage captained the side, whilst junior Bulls hooker Corniel Els wore the number 2. Els was on the Bulls books until January this year when he moved to the Italian side, and he put in a performance that had many wondering why a better effort wasn't made to retain his services locally.
South African's need to pay homage to the fact that their entry to the Northern Hemisphere, via the United Rugby Championship will not be as easy as some believe. Benetton failed to win a single match in the ordinary Pro14 season, and are by no means the strongest team we will face when the tournament kicks off in September.
Congratulations goes out to Rugby Punt-it Superbru winner, Jacques van Tonder who successfully predicted 29 of the seasons games, whilst Willem Ferreira came in at second and Ferdi van Vuuren (Brutus) finished in 3rd place.
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