A comfortable 33-20 bonus-point victory for the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, the venue for the second Test between the Boks and Lions on June 27, saw the Pretoria outfit claim top spot after round one of the southern hemisphereâ00s premier club competition.
Springbok stars Fourie du Preez and man-of-the-match Pierre Spies both got their name on their scoresheet, as did fellow international Wynard Oliver, a member of the 2007 World Cup winning squad.
â00There are clearly a number of areas of our game that need improvement, but that is understandable because it was our first match,â0 said Bulls skipper Victor Matfield, who picked up a shoulder injury and will be missing for three weeks.
â00I must say our kicking game was brilliant. Our kicking game is one of our strengths and we showed that against the Reds.â0
Springbok No8 Pierre Spies was a tryscorer for the table-topping Bulls
The Bulls backline coach Pieter Rossouw suggested that the decision not to play a large number of warm up matches will ultimately benefit his side and the Boks but his most-telling comment as far as McGeechan and the Lions are concerned focused on the form of Bryan Habana.
â00Our preparation was very good leading up to the match, although it was evident that we are in need of match practice, but that is the trade off one has to make - do you play a number of warm-up matches and take the risk of injuries or do you play one or two games and go into the tournament with a full strength squad?
â00I think we made the correct decision and we can only build on this performance.
â00From a coaching perspective I think all the backs played very well and it was great to see that Bryan Habana is back at his best.â0
The Golden Lions find themselves in second spot in the Super 14 ladder after a thrilling 34-28 win over fellow South Africans the Cheetahs on Friday night. The two bottom-placed sides from last yearâ00s tournament were level at 28 points apiece until two late drop goals sealed the win for the home side at Cocoa Cola Park in Johannesburg â00 the venue of the third and final Test on this summerâ00s Lions tour.
Ashwin Willemse, a wing who was once seen as the next big thing in South African rugby, crossed for a brace of tries for the Lions, while Heinrich Brussow, fresh from his first taste of international rugby on the Boksâ00 end-of-year tour of the UK, was a tryscorer for the Cheetahs.
Ashwin Willemse scored twice for the Golden Lions in Johannesburg
Earl Rose, who along with Brussow was one of two uncapped players on that November tour, kicked three penalties and the match-clinching drop to reaffirm his abilities just three-and-a-half months out from the visit of Ian McGeechan and co.
â00This was the ideal start that we had hoped for, and although it was close at the end, I felt we dominated the Cheetahs, where in the past it was the other way around,â0 said Golden Lions coach Eugene Loff.
â00From a technical point of view, our lineouts were a problem, as were some of the one-on-one tackles. These will be our main focus point for this week.
â00But we achieved our goal of scoring five points, and thatâ00s all that matters.â0
There was some consolation for Cheetahsâ00 star flanker Juan Smith, whose good form continues after being named man-of-the-match.
Springbok skipper John Smit marked his return to South African rugby from Clermont Auvergne with a crucial try in a hard-fought encounter between the Sharks and the Stormers at Newlands in Cape Town.
The inspirational Smit was named at hooker rather than his new position of tighthead due to injury to Bismarck du Plessis and his 60th-minute try gave the Sharks the lead for the first time in the match.
The Sharks had trailed 10-0 at half-time but Smitâ00s score made it 11-10 before another converted try from former Bok Stefan Terblanche five minutes later put the match beyond the Stormers.
The Stormers and Sharks took part in a typically-fierce South African battle
Stomers captain Jean de Villiers suffered a nasty knock to the head and left the field early in the second half but the Bok coaching staff will be relieved to know that the injury is not as serious as at first thought.
De Villiers was not concussed in the incident and is expected to be available for the second round of fixtures this weekend.
Super 14 results
Highlanders 31 Brumbies 33
Western Force 19 Blues 25
Golden Lions 34 Cheetahs 28
Crusaders 19 Chiefs 13
Hurricanes 22 Waratahs 26
Stormers 15 Sharks 20
Bulls 33 Reds 20
Next weekendâ00s fixtures
Friday, February 20
Hurricanes vs Highlanders
Waratahs vs Chiefs
Western Force vs Cheetahs
Stormers vs Reds
Saturday, February 21
Brumbies vs Crusaders
Bulls vs Blues
Sharks vs Lions