Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
The new-look Emirates Western Force has taken another promising step forward, pushing the Bulls in their 36-26 loss at Loftus Versfeld tonight.
Playing in their 100th Super Rugby appearance, the Emirates Western Force showed tremendous character in taking the match to their more-fancied opponents, and held the lead for a large portion of the second half before forfeiting the scoreboard advantage in the final eight minutes of the match.
The result remained in the balance up until the final whistle until Bulls prop Werner Kruger dived over from short range after the siren to deny the Force a losing bonus point.
The Force’s performance was a far cry from last week’s 22-10 loss to the Kings, with the Western Australians showing improvement in defence, lineout and kicking to build pressure and maintain momentum for large periods of the match.
The visitors were well served by flyhalf Sias Ebersohn, who continued to build scoreboard pressure with an accomplished goal-kicking display that featured two conversions, two penalties and two drop goals for a personal haul of 16 points.
The Force was on the back foot early when Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn sliced through the defensive line from first receiver in the second minute to touch down in the corner.
The remainder of the scoring in the first half was left to the respective side’s goal kickers with Ebersohn landing two long-range attempts – one from 60 metres – to have his side trailing 14-9 at the break.
The Force drew first blood in the second term when Ebersohn added his second drop goal in the 42nd minute, however, the response was swift from the Bulls with winger Sampie Mastriet sneaking down the right flank to score.
Flanker Angus Cottrell then provided Ebersohn with the easiest of conversions to lock up the scores at 19-all after he intercepted a Steyn cut-out pass for an uninterrupted 50-metre run to the line for his maiden Super Rugby try.
The Force then claimed a 26-19 lead at the 57-minute mark when lock Toby Lynn burrowed over for a try in his 50th Super Rugby appearance. The try came on the back of a chip-and-regather from hooker Nathan Charles and several bullocking runs from replacement flanker Chris Alcock, with Lynn on hand to finish off the attacking raid.
Steyn added his fourth penalty attempt to bring his side to within four points, before replacement Jean Cook finished off a long-range rolling maul to take back a 29-26 lead for his side with eight minutes remaining.
While both sides had opportunities to play inside their attacking halves in the final minutes, it was the Bulls that extended their lead after the final siren to take the 10-point win.
The Emirates Western Force will return home to a bye before travelling to Brisbane to tackle the Reds on Saturday, 16 March.
2013 Super Rugby – Week 3
Saturday, 2 March 2013 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 5.05pm (local)/11.05pm (AWST)
Bulls 36 (Morne Steyn, Sampie Mastriet, Jean Cook, Werner Kruger tries; Morne Steyn 2/4 conversions, 4/4 penalty goals) defeated Emirates Western Force 26 (Angus Cottrell, Toby Lynn tries; Sias Ebersohn 2/2 conversion, 2/2 penalty goals, 2/3 drop goals)
Emirates Western Force
1. Pek Cowan, 2. Nathan Charles, 3. Salesi Ma’afu, 4. Toby Lynn, 5. Hugh McMeniman, 6. Angus Cottrell, 7. Matt Hodgson (c), 8. Richard Brown, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Sias Ebersohn, 11. Alfie Mafi, 12. Kyle Godwin, 13. Winston Stanley, 14. Nick Cummins, 15. Will Tupou. Res: 16. Heath Tessmann, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Sam Wykes, 19. Ben McCalman, 20. Chris Alcock, 21. Mick Snowden, 22. Jayden Hayward.
Coach: Michael Foley
1. Morne Mellett, 2. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 3. Werner Kruger, 4. Flip van der Merwe, 5. Juandre Kruger, 6. Jacques Potgieter, 7. Arno Botha, 8. Pierre Spies (c), 9. Francois Hougaard, 10. Morne Steyn, 11. Bjorn Basson, 12. Wynand Olivier, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 14. Sampie Mastriet, 15. Zane Kirchner. Res: 16. Willie Wepener, 17. Frik Kirsten, 18. Grant Hattingh,19. Jean Cook, 20. Jano Vermaak, 21. Louis Fouche, 22. Jan Serfontein.
Coach: Frans Ludeke
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Referee: Jason Jaftha
Crowd: Not announced
By the Clock
The Emirates Western Force has made four changes to its starting XV to tackle the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday night.
Lock Toby Lynn, prop Salesi Ma’afu and back-rower Richard Brown all return to the run-on side while former Baby Bok flyhalf Sias Ebersohn will make his first start in the ‘10’ jersey for the Western Australians.
Lynn’s recall to the starting pack coincides with his 50th career Super Rugby match. The 28-year-old, who made his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs in 2007, played 32 matches for the Waikato side before joining the Emirates Western Force ahead of the 2012 season.
Lynn is joined in the tight five by Wallabies tighthead Salesi Ma’afu, who is set to make his first appearance for the Force in 2013, replacing Tetera Faulkner, who reverts to the bench.
Veteran back-rower Richard Brown also forces his way into the starting side after two powerful performances from the bench, including a try-scoring effort against the Rebels in Melbourne. Brown joins captain Matt Hodgson in the back row and remain the club’s two survivors from the Force’s 30-27 win in Pretoria in 2007.
Bloemfontein-born Ebersohn will return to the Highveld for the first time since joining the Force after three Super Rugby seasons representing the Free State-based Cheetahs. The 24-year-old, who made his maiden appearance for the Force as a replacement against the Rebels in Week One, replaces playmaker Sam Christie in an otherwise unchanged backline.
The Force will again feature five forwards on its bench, with Faulkner, Sam Wykes and Ben McCalman joining hooker Heath Tessmann and flanker Chris Alcock on the reserves list. Former Hurricanes midfielder Jayden Hayward is in line to make his debut for his new province during the match, alongside Mick Snowden, who became the 107th and most recent debutante for the Emirates Western Force last weekend.
Emirates Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley said his side was focused on improving following their loss to the Kings last Saturday.
“We were disappointed with last week’s performance, but as a young team, the important thing is how we learn and progress” he said.
“There were numerous elements of our game that were positive, particularly the way we started the match, but we need our basics to be more consistent to build pressure and gain momentum at Super Rugby level.
“As we strive to improve our skills and the way we play, it’s important to remain composed and focused when errors occur, to ensure we continue to play as a XV and maximise opportunities we create.
“Salesi and Richard bring with them a great deal of experience and physicality and we’re all keen to mark Toby’s 50th game with a good performance. Saturday also represents a good opportunity for Sias in an environment in which he’s played in more than any other member of our team.”
2013 Super Rugby – Week Three
Bulls v Emirates Western Force
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday, 2 March 2013
Kick-off: 5.05pm (local)/11.05pm (AWST)
1. Pek Cowan
2. Nathan Charles
3. Salesi Ma’afu
4. Toby Lynn
5. Hugh McMeniman
6. Angus Cottrell
7. Matt Hodgson (c)
8. Richard Brown
9. Alby Mathewson
10. Sias Ebersohn^
11. Alfie Mafi
12. Kyle Godwin
13. Winston Stanley
14. Nick Cummins
15. Will Tupou
16. Heath Tessmann
17. Tetera Faulkner
18. Sam Wykes
19. Ben McCalman
20. Chris Alcock
21. Mick Snowden
22. Jayden Hayward*
* Emirates Western Force debut
^ Emirates Western Force run-on debut