Bulls Currie Cup victory makes up for 2005

Before an important match, coaches and captains will deny any reference to “revenge” sought for a previous defeat, but Blue Bulls lock Bakkies Botha, has made rubbish of this after the Currie Cup final won 36-24 by the Blue Bulls against the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

“It feels like a dagger removed,” said the hard man in reference to the 29-25 loss to the Cheetahs at the same venue in 2005.

That loss was totally unexpected and was rubbed in the following year when the Free State side held the Blue Bulls to a 28-all draw. The 2005 defeat was one of only three in the 17 finals the Bulls have played in Pretoria.

“It really hurt,” Botha emphasised that 2005 loss – and this was further underlined by the victory smiles of the nine Blue Bulls players at the media conference after the match.

There to face the media were the four newly selected Springboks, Heini Adams, Bandise Maku, Dewald Potgieter and Francois Hougaard; the three half-centurions Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and Bakkies Botha who all celebrated their 50th Currie Cup appearances for the Blue Bulls.

Also present was the two Bulls leaving for other unions, Bryan Habana (Western province) and Burton Francis (Lions). The Blue Bulls and formerly Northern Transvaal, have now played the Free State in nine finals, with seven wins and a draw showing their domination.

And since 2002 they have been in seven of the eight finals, winning all but two with one shared.

The Blue Bulls have now won the Cup outright 19 times and also shared it four times (once each with Transvaal and Free State, and twice with Western Province) in their 31 finals.

Although they admitted their Bok selection hadn’t sunk in yet, the importance of the Currie Cup for the Blue Bulls was underlined by new Springbok Dewald Potgieter who said the winning of the trophy was (at that moment) a better feeling than his Bok selection.

“They love to play for the Bulls,” said backline coach Pieter Rossouw to add to Potgieter’s sentiments. For Habana, who joined the Bulls five years ago “to win the Currie Cup” it was a special day.

They have now achieved what he came for – and he scored two tries to make the parting win even sweeter.

“It will be difficult to play against them next year,” he admitted – and thanked the Blue Bulls for what they had done for “not only Bryan the rugby player, but also Bryan the person.

“I’ll really miss them,” Habana said about his team mates and the management at Loftus Versfeld. Captain Matfield had special thanks for his coach Frans Ludeke.

“It wasn’t easy for Coach,” he said about Ludeke’s first season at the Bulls and Blue Bulls in 2008, the year after they had become the first South African side to win the Super 14 title, “but he stuck to it.”

And now they have the double – the Super 14 title as a franchise called Bulls and the Currie Cup as the union called the Blue Bulls. And Ludeke has deservedly added his name to the greats of Blue Bulls history after a lean spell as Golden Lions and the Super 14 Cats coach.

“That’s what we’ve been working for ever since George (last December when they had a three-week training camp at the coast). “All the sweat, the pain at training, is now worth it. It has been an amazing journey.”

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske lamented his team’s lack of concentration early on.

“You don’t come back against a quality side like the Blue Bulls from 24-0 down,” Drotske said, and admitted that the work done at the breakdown by the collective effort of the winners was simply too good for his star fetcher Heinrich Brussow.

He said he couldn’t put his finger on why the Free State Cheetahs so often started slowly in a match – as indeed they did in both the Currie Cup and the Super 14 competitions this year.

That would definitely be something to be worked on next year, starting

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