It was Saturday 27 July 2013, the second semi final of Super Rugby held at what was known as Fortress Loftus to many a Vodacom Bulls supporter and fan.
Earlier that same day the Chiefs had scraped through a victory against bookies favourite The Crusaders in Hamilton, New Zealand. However, now it was the turn of the mighty Bulls up against former Rugby World Cup winning Coach Jake White’s Brumbies, who was not given an inch in the build up to the matchup.
Slowly but surely Loftus Versfeld filled up to the big occasion which was to commence at 17h05.
With everyone in their sought after seats ready for the big match to start it was all systems go and Ben Mowen lead his underrated Brumbies onto the park closely followed by his counterpart Dewald Potgieter and his charges with the sound of Steve Hofmeyr’s Blou Bul echoing through the stands and neighbouring houses surrounding the stadium.
It was finally time for kickoff after a 2-week wait and surely, the script was written accordingly. Not a single loss the whole season for the home side at their beloved home ground.
The whistle goes and 3 minutes in it is the Brumbies who smell blood first with a well converted penalty from Christian Lealiifano.
Nine minutes in and yet another penalty against the men from Pretoria only this time it is missed.
11 minutes and boom, the Brumbies score a well worked try against some mediocre defence and the converted kick slotted over duly by that man Lealiifano. The score after 13 minutes reads 0 – 10 to the visiting side.
Only 5 minutes later and after a missed penalty, the Bulls score a brilliant try in the corner through JJ Engelbrecht. The General of Loftus, Morne Steyn misses again. Bulls 5-10 Brumbies after 17 minutes.
Five minutes later it’s Steyn again who lines up yet another penalty, which he converts only for the Brumbies to reply immediately with one of their own to make the score 8 – 13 in their favour. All this in only 25 minutes.
It’s GAME ON now. The Brumbies have come to play and the Bulls seem to be awake after their sluggish start…
The Bulls get another chance they receive a penalty in front. Matt Toomua put in a late tackle on Steyn. He’s perhaps a tad lucky not to be sin-binned as it was late and high!
Steyn converts and the score line now reads Bulls 11 – 13 Brumbies.
36 minutes in and the Bulls are penalised in yet another scrumming infringement which easily is converted by Lealiifano and the gap is restored to five points again with halftime being called a few minutes later. Bulls 11 – 16 Brumbies.
Halftime talk in the SuperSport studio surrounds only one thing…Referee Craig Joubert’s interpretation of the scrum binding law, which according to all in studio is very wrong and is costing the Bulls penalties that should never have been. One or two other suspicious calls against the men in Blue are also discussed.
The second half gets underway and the Bulls are like men possessed!
Grant Hattingh barges over the line within seconds of the whistle but is judged to be held up and Steyn gets another penalty opportunity straight in front and makes it Bulls 14 – 16 Brumbies only two minutes into the second half.
Meanwhile Morne Mellett replaces Dean Greyling and yet again, the Bulls are penalised for the same infringement that was discussed at halftime by Nick Mallett.
Lealiifano changes the scoreboard yet again to read Bulls 14 – 19 Brumbies.
Tweets are flying all over the place with comments surrounding Joubert’s calls on the binding method of Alexander from the Brumbies at scrum time.
“No bind at all from Alexander, let alone on the jersey. That is dreadful from Joubert. Dreadful!” –Front Row Grunt
The score line is decreased by yet another Steyn penalty to 17 – 19 Brumbies still leading.
Play stabilizes for around nine minutes when the Bulls earn another penalty and with Steyn’s radar now on target puts the Bulls in the lead for the first time in 60 minutes albeit by only one point. Bulls 20 – 19 Brumbies.
Barely a minute later the Bulls get given another penalty and Steyn punts it 50 meters down field.
Play continues and in a crazy moment of bizarre thinking, sidelined reserve Jurgen Visser earns the Brumbies a penalty. Luckily not in range of scoring.
The Bulls regain possession following the penalty and force a kickable penalty, however stand-in Captain Dewald Potgieter orders Steyn to put it out, which he obliges to and sets up the men in Blue for a great lineout only 5 meters from the Brumbies try line.
The lineout throw does not go 100% accordingly and the men from Pretoria knock it on. The crowd getting restless with only 12 minutes left not understanding why the boys didn’t take the 3 points instead.
Two minutes later and an even more kickable penalty is given to Potgieter and his charges, yet the 4-time Super Rugby captain opts to go for the line again…
They lose the lineout again but somehow regain possession and Steyn opts to go for the drop goal, which he in turn misses. People asking why go for the drop if you just did not go for the penalty…?
The clock showing only 9 minutes left and still only a 1 point game.
Another minute passes and once again Joubert gives the Bulls another chance to extend the lead and then the moment of the game as Potgieter once again points to the line…
Surely, you ask yourself; shouldn’t Morne Steyn as a senior player have rather told his captain to instead secure the 3 points? Nope, he obliged again and once again the Bulls with another 5-meter lineout that went astray.
9 points left in a matter of a few minutes and the game for that matter now saw Coach Frans Ludeke clearly seen shouting over the walky talky “PALE TOE!! PALE TOE!!! PALE TOE!!!!”
Clearly the whole country behind the Bulls with tweets flying all over again:
“Take the points please Bulls!!!!” – John Smit
With a fourth penalty awarded the message finally got to Potgieter via one of the medical personnel of the Bulls who one clearly can see over rules his Captain who yet again wanted to go for the line to go for the three points.
Steyn with radar still on target slots it and the Bulls stretch their lead to but only 4 points with less than 5 minutes to go.
Things looking up for the Bulls, the Brumbies now with ball in hand decide to give it their last chance of what seems impossible. Something the Bulls should have known is not impossible looking back to the 2007 Final against the Sharks in Durban.
And then the inevitable happened as Basson shot out of line giving Matt Toomua the gap needed, who then off loaded to Tevita Kuridrani who easily crossed the whitewash to seal the deal for the Brumbies and Jake White.
Lealiifano slotted the conversion closing the game off with only a minute left. Bulls 23 – 26 Brumbies.
This was surely not the script that was handed out before the game or was it.
As many Bulls supporters still reel and ponder about what happened on Saturday, the Brumbies are already back in New Zealand preparing for what should have been a Chiefs vs. Bulls Super Rugby Final, but now is only a faded memory thought of once a few days ago.
The question now remains, what if? What if Dewald stuck to normal Bulls rugby instead and not his own ideas? The questions are all there.
That said good luck to both the Chiefs and Brumbies for this weekend’s Final! May the best team win!