Cell C Sharks flyhalf Joe Pietersen missed a sitter of a penalty that would have given his team a late winner against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, instead condemning them to a 16-all draw in their Vodacom Super Rugby match on Friday night.
Marcel Coetzee had just forced a breakdown penalty in exceptional style to line up the shot, with Sharks players celebrating as if they had won the Super Rugby trophy when referee Glen Jackson raised his arm for the Bulls.
But instead of slotting the ball, Pietersen had a moment of madness, pushing it right as the howls of despair rang out across the stadium amidst surprise from the Bulls faithful.
It ended a difficult contest on possibly the best note, but neither sets of supporters will be happy with the teams going home with a draw in a local derby.
Unfortunately this has happened for Pietersen before after a similar nightmare just less than a year back saw a last minute-penalty hit the upright to give the Queensland Reds an 18-17 win over his then side, the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Two minutes earlier the Bulls’ own ice-man – aptly named by his teammates as “Jack Frost” for his peroxided cap – Tian Schoeman showed how cool under pressure he could be as he slotted a 52 metre bomb from inside his own half to bring the Bulls level.
But while the contest ended on a dramatic note, it was a night which will more be remembered for near misses than for the sparkling rugby that fans had come to watch.
The Sharks fluffed two clear try-scoring chances on the line as they lost balls they should just have dotted down to score, while the Bulls missed nine points with the boot as Francois Brummer was hit and miss at times with the boot.
Possibly the clearest chances though were still for the visitors, as Warrick Gelant – a popular man of the match choice – snuffed out a clear try by intercepting the last pass from JP Pietersen to Paul Jordaan after the Sharks had drawn the man and simply needed to move the ball inside to score.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, they added another fluffed opportunity when Pietersen did draw the defence, passing inside high to Jordaan again with the midfielder knocking the ball on over the tryline in a move that would have had the coaching staff howling with disbelief.
Both sides had aspects of their game they will be pleased with and also ones they will need to return to the drawing board on.
The Bulls scrum looked exceptionally strong and has made a marked improvement from the first week of the competition where they suffered at the hands of the Stormers pack, with Trevor Nyakane and Marcel van der Merwe underlining their reputations as Springboks.
The Sharks used the air more effectively than the Bulls, with Willie le Roux surviving the bombs on him with ease, and JP Pietersen ruling supreme on the wing over the normally composed Bjorn Basson.
But the Bulls probably had the better ball on the night, forcing the Sharks into more than double the tackles they had to make themselves, while shading every statistic on a night where the rugby was scrappy to say the least.
The Bulls pulled out to a 13-3 lead thanks to a penalty and drop goal by Brummer, and a beautiful first phase move that saw Gelant get the only try of the match for the Bulls.
Brummer swept right from a scrum drawing the defence before sending Basson wide with the winger delivering a beautiful inside pass to the fullback to score.
The Sharks brought the lead closer with another Pietersen penalty before some crafty tactical kicking and a mess in covering the ball brought matters even again.
Willie le Roux saw space behind the backline and chipped the ball in behind the Bulls with Warrick Gelant missing the ball as he tried to run across and cover. Lwazi Mvovo kneed the ball out of Jamba Ulengo’s range and the bounce favoured Le Roux, following up on the inside to dive and score.
At 13-all the game was delicately poised before Pietersen slotted another penalty to give the Sharks a narrow lead as the clock ticked down.
But then came Schoeman’s bomb and the drama unfolded in minutes, with the result as disappointing for both sides as the quality of rugby on display at times.
A draw, Ian McIntosh used to say, is like kissing your sister. Both sides will feel this is more like kissing your mother-in-law. – SuperSport
Vodacom Bulls – Warwick Gelant. Conversions: Francois Brummer. Penalties: Francois Brummer, Tian Schoeman Drop Goal: Brummer
Cell C Sharks – tries: Willie le Roux Conversion: Joe Pietersen. Penalties: Pietersen (3)
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