Steyn boots 'new' Bulls to victory
BULLS 18 SHARKS 13
Francois Hougaard clears the ruck for the Bulls. Photo: Getty Images
The Bulls fielded a new-look team against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, but it was 'old hand' Morne Steyn who kicked them to an 18-13 victory.
Springbok fly-half Steyn recovered from two penalty misses in a point-less first half to slot five after the break and land a drop goal before a sell-out 50,000 crowd.
Sharks fly-half Patrick Lambie also failed with two first-half attempts at the posts before kicking two and converting a try from flank Jacques Botes which set up a tense finish in perfect late summer conditions.
"We got some momentum going in the second half and this match emphasised how important it is to have a player like Morne in your team," said new Bulls skipper and number eight Pierre Spies.
"It is really uplifting for a forward to see his efforts translated into points and we did well to hold on when the Sharks came at us in the closing stages of a very physical battle."
Sharks flank Keegan Daniel has succeeded retired Springbok skipper John Smit as captain of the Durban outfit and he lamented the early second-half ill discipline that gave Steyn the chance to build a 18-6 lead for the Pretoria team.
"Morne is a great goal kicker and any team that gives him chances like we did is going to suffer. However, the spirit of the boys never flagged and I was proud of the way they fought to the end."
Bulls started without legends like retired Victor Matfield and overseas-based Bakkies Botha and scrum-half Fourie du Preez, who helped them win three Super titles in the past five seasons.
Smit, Ireland-based centre Stefan Terblanche and injured forwards Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira, Jean Deysel and Willem Alberts were missing from a Sharks side that had World Cup-winning Springbok wing JP Pietersen at outside centre.
The scoreboard operator was idle for 42 minutes and 40 seconds before Steyn kicked a close-range penalty that Lambie quickly cancelled with a successful effort from longer range.
Leading 2011 Rugby World Cup points scorer Steyn succeeded with four consecutive penalty shots, then Lambie with one before the Bulls fly-half dropped a goal to give the home team a 12-point advantage with 12 minutes left.
The referee missed a forward pass from replacement back Paul Jordaan in the build-up to the Sharks try nine minutes from time and a Lambie conversion from far out meant no one left the stadium before the final whistle blew.
BULLS 18 (Morne Steyn 5 pens, drop goal) def SHARKS 13 (Jacques Botes try; Patrick Lambie 2 pens, con)