Coetzee leads Bulls to record Currie Cup final triumph over Sharks

Pretoria (AFP) –


Former Springbok Marcell Coetzee scored a crucial try as he led the Bulls to record 44-10 triumph over the Sharks in a surprisingly one-sided South African Currie Cup final on Saturday.

Flanker Coetzee barged over off a tap-and-go penalty six minutes before half-time and fly-half Chris Smith converted to give the home team a 19-3 half-time lead at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria.

Leaving the field for the interval trailing by 16 points after dominating possession and territory was hugely discouraging for the Durban-based Sharks.

They never looked like recovering from the blow delivered by ex-Ulster star Coetzee and confirmation that they were heading for a heavy loss came just eight minutes after half-time.

Eighthman Elrigh Louw, who was voted man of the match, stormed toward the Sharks line and when stopped, lock Janko Swanepoel completed the attack by powering over for the Bulls' fourth try.

While the Bulls have been the dominant South African side since rugby resumed behind closed doors last September after a long coronavirus-induced break, followers were hoping for a repeat of the 2020 final.

That title decider also involved the Bulls and the Sharks and went to extra time before the Pretoria franchise prevailed 26-19 thanks to a final-minute try.

The 34-point winning margin on Saturday was a Currie Cup final record, eclipsing the 30 points by which the Bulls defeated Western Province 41 years ago.

"This is one of the best nights of my life," said Coetzee before lifting the trophy. "It was a team effort. We had to step up to dominate the final, and we did."

- 'Men against boys' -

Skipper and eighthman Phepsi Buthelezi apologised to Sharks' supporters and admitted that the visitors "simply were not good enough on the night".

TV analyst and Springbok 2007 World Cup winner Butch James said "it was men against boys. The Sharks were no match physically for the Bulls."

While keeping possession for long periods of the opening half, the Sharks could not penetrate the defensive barrier erected by the Bulls.

A backline that lacked five first choices on Springbok Rugby Championship duty in Australia were indecisive and ran laterally too often.

All the losers could manage in the first 40 minutes was a penalty by full-back Curnin Bosch while the clinical Bulls made virtually every entry to the Sharks' 22 count.

Centres Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe scored before Coetzee, and Smith, who started because regular playmaker Johan Loosen contracted Covid-19 this week, slotted two conversions.

Swanepoel, scrum-half Zak Burger and winger Cornal Hendrikse scored second-half tries for the champions and Smith kicked two conversions and two penalties.

All the Sharks could manage in return was a try from prop Thomas du Toit, after a Bulls lineout throw went too far, which Bosch converted.

Next up for the Bulls and Sharks will be United Rugby Championship (formerly Pro14) debuts on September 25 in Ireland against Leinster and Munster respectively.