Damian de Allende, in a 30 minute cameo for Munster, towered above all other South African backs at Loftus in the United Rugby Championship.
Springbok midfielder De Allende, on his return from injury, was introduced early in the second half and his impact was immediate. He owned the collisions, forced both Bulls midfielders to commit to a tackle on him, such is his strength and leg drive and from the outset sparkled.
De Allende has been huge for Munster when he has been available and while there is a lot of noise made about the pecking order to De Allende as the back-ups at No 12, De Allende is in a different class as the Springboks starting No 12.
I was critical of the Bulls second half performance on Twitter and bemoaned that, at 29-3 up, they didn’t bury a Munster team who had nine players in action for Ireland against England at Twickenham.
The @BlueBullsRugby 29-3 up on 50 mins & hanging on in final 5 mins to win it 29-24 … victory but the most hollow of ones. Home team looked like one who had never played at altitude. All credit to fighting spirit of @Munsterrugby who were missing 9 Test players. @URCOfficial
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) March 12, 2022
I was reminded on social media that Munster, by way of De Allende, had one more current Springbok than the entire Bulls team.
Fair play to the observer of this, and on reflection I wouldn’t pick any of the Bulls to start a Test for the Boks in place of any of the incumbents.
There is youthful potential in No 8 Elrigh Louw, who will become a Springbok and hooker Johan Grobbelaar is also an impressive player. Outside of that, this Bulls side is a good provincial side, but will struggle against the likes of Munster and Leinster when the two Irish provinces are at full strength.
It was really disappointing how the Bulls fell away in the final 20 minutes and it was also noticeable how Munster and Cardiff (playing the Lions at Emirates Ellis Park) comfortably dealt with altitude. If anything, it was the Bulls and Lions who were heaving heaviest at the final whistle.
I was also surprised at how well the under-strength Scarlets competed against the Sharks in the first 30 minutes, and how disciplined their handling of the ball was in very humid conditions.
The Sharks, in those first 20 minutes, looked like the team that had never played in Durban’s humidity.
In previewing the weekend’s rounds with SA Rugby Magazine’s Zelim Nel and Moneyman, I picked all four South African teams to win – and to win comfortably. Every match played out as I thought it would, with the exception of the Bulls win against Munster, which I thought would be a double digit winning margin.
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) March 11, 2022
Four wins in four starts, in the competition’s first home matches in South Africa, is a great start to the back end of the competition for the four South African teams.