The Blue Bulls have almost put themselves out of reach in their Rainbow Nations Cup quest to make it to the North v South Final on June 19th, as they beat the Stormers 31 - 27 at Loftus Versfeld last night. The Stormers were in control for most of the match despite their ill discipline reducing them to 13 men at a stage. However a second half surge brought about by a powerful Bulls pack, saw them clinch it at the death.
Stormers winger, Edwill van der Merwe claimed man of the match after a strong showing out wide, with commentators drawing comparison to Cheslin Kolbe in the way he stepped his way through a committed Bulls defense. Ruan Nortje however stole the spotlight in the 80th minute with his bash over try that put the Bulls ahead and left an easy kick for Morne Steyn to seal it off.
Marcell Coetzee notably made a return from injury after leaving Ulster and linking up with the Pretoria based side. Not only did he get through a full 80 minutes, he was strong in the tackle, bagged himself a try and additionally had the captaincy thrust upon him unexpectedly, due to injury.
Morne Steyn once again put his hand up high for a call up to the Springboks squad which is set to be announced this evening, live at 18:30 on SuperSport. Once again proving to be cool, calm and collected, he marshalled the backline perfectly and kept the Stormers honest with some pin point kicking in open play. With Cornal Hendricks running off him at 12, both will be hard to look over for the upcoming tour as the latter has also shown a renewed presence in the game, albeit in a new position.
Whilst the game on display at Loftus was of solid quality, it definitely came at a high price, as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will be sweating over some of his star players fitness. Both Duane Vermeulen and Herschel Jantjies didn't make it through the first half of the match. Jantjies was taken off early, with coaches noting he had begun to feel ill prior to kick off. Duane Vermeulen though looked to be struggling as he hobbled off the filed, and the sight of him icing his ankle on the sideline, will have the British and Irish Lions licking their lips.
Vermeulen is a crucial cog of the Springbok pack, charged with both physicality and leadership rolls. Further details on his injury are still to be released but Nienaber will be holding is breath in the coming two weeks of rugby before his squad assembles for duty, hoping for as few injury surprises as possible.