Gert Smal’s charges came out all guns blazing and maintained their up-tempo assault throughout, pulling away in the second half to emphatically bounce back from their defeat to the Toyota Cheetahs and hand the Peacock Blues their first loss at home this year.

With a stacked deck of seven Springboks in their matchday 23, headlined by captain Marcell Coetzee, the two-time defending champions had too much class and strings in their bow for the game and outgunned Tafel Lager Griquas.

Three tries, two in quick succession, put the men from Pretoria in the driver’s seat and saw them head into half-time with a 22-15 lead.

Try as they might, and they twice landed counterstrikes to stay in the fight, Tafel Lager Griquas eventually fell off the pace as the visitors raced to victory with an overwhelming second-half showing. 

For their never-say-die attitude, Pieter Bergh’s men were rewarded with a bonus point thanks to a late try by replacement Michael Amiras.

The game got off to a frenetic start with both teams throwing the ball around in conditions favourable for running rugby. A turnover from evergreen Bismarck du Plessis, who popped up everywhere and got onto the scoresheet, gave the Vodacom Bulls prime field position and they capitalised with Simphiwe Matanzima powering and stretching over from a slick lineout move.

Chris Smith, who scored 18 points in a polished performance and was named Champion of the Match, added the conversion to make it 7-0 after 10 minutes.

The hosts replied with a diamond of a dot down five minutes later through Zander du Plessis, who converted his own try following dazzling interplay between wings Munier Hartzenberg and Luther Obi.

They nearly had a second when Chris Hollis picked up an errant Vodacom Bulls pass. Embrose Papier did exceptionally well to reel the outside centre in and was quick to his feet to hold the ball up over the line moments later.

Tafel Lager Griquas were intent on scoring points, though, and it came from the goal line restart in the form of a sweetly-struck drop goal by Theo Boshoff.

The visitors took over from there as their attacking enterprise started to burn holes in the defence. They banked back-to-back tries through Cornal Hendricks and Walt Steenkamp, Kurt-Lee Arendse the architect of both, with Smith converting the second to establish a 22-10 lead.

Feeling the pressure, Tafel Lager Griquas turned down a kickable penalty in search of a seven-pointer only for the Vodacom Bulls to land another bitter blow by stealing the ensuing 5m lineout and clearing their line.

However, the hosts were relentless and finally rewarded when hard-working Hanru Sirgel burrowed his way over from close quarters to reduce the deficit to seven going into the break after Du Plessis’ conversion attempt drifted wide.

Smith stamped his authority on the game straight out of the shoot in the second half with the first of two classy 50:22s, which resulted in Arno Botha running in the bonus-point try. 

Refusing to go away, Tafel Lager Griquas produced another spectacular try, a perfectly-timed pass by Du Plessis slicing the Vodacom Bulls open down the middle with the No 12 doubling up in support to score and convert his second of the afternoon.

After Matanzima was denied his brace by being held up over the line, the Vodacom Bulls were able to restore their 14-point advantage through 19-year-old Canan Moodie, who cantered in after collecting a try-making pass from Hendricks.

The Vodacom Bulls opted to slow it down on their next visit to the 22 and when the home team were blown up, Smith popped over a penalty goal near the hour-mark to stretch the scoreline out to 39-22.

The visitors’ veteran hooker Du Plessis and replacement scrumhalf Keagan Johannes got in on the act to take the Vodacom Bulls past 50. Still scratching, Amiras’ try was of some consolation as it earned the outgunned Peacock Blues a four-try bonus point.


Tafel Lager Griquas 27 (15) – Tries: Zander du Plessis (2), Hanru Sirgel, Michael Amiras. Conversions: Du Plessis (2). Drop goal: Theo Boshoff.

Vodacom Bulls 53 (22) – Tries: Simphiwe Matanzima, Cornal Hendricks, Walt Steenkamp, Arno Botha, Canan Moodie, Bismarck du Plessis, Keagan Johannes. Conversions: Chris Smith (6). Penalty goals: Smith (2).