The Highlanders' season of woes continues
The Highlanders awful season continued with a 35-18 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria this morning.
Down 23-6 at halftime, the Highlanders lacked any sort of penetration against a Bulls team which is unbeaten at Loftus Versfeld this season.
The Highlanders spent 20 minutes of the second half down to 14 men because of yellow cards and twice had to resort to non-contested scrums after injuries to Jamie Mackintosh and Chris King.
The Highlanders appeared to have been sawn off just before halftime when veteran winger Akona Ndungane was awarded a try despite the pass to him looking to have gone forward from JJ Engelbrecht.
The movement came just after the Highlanders had put together their most promising attacking move with 12 phases which took them into the shadow of the goal posts.
Instead of possibly trailing by only three points at the break, the Highlanders found themselves 17 points down.
The Bulls came firing out of the bye round with a try to centre JJ Engelbrecht after less than two minutes.
From that point the first half was dominated by the whistle of Jaco Peyper, with both teams infringing constantly at the breakdown.
Morne Steyn, playing a franchise record 117th game for the Bulls, made the Highlanders pay for their misdemeanours, kicking three first half penalties
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph went to the bench at halftime, replacing skipper Andrew Hore with Liam Coltman and also bringing on Jason Emery on the right wing, TJ Ioane and Tony Woodcock for Mackintosh.
The game was over as a contest six minutes after the break when Bulls captain Pierre Spies celebrated his 100th Super Rugby game with a try from a lineout drive.
Steyn's conversion had the Bulls ahead 30-6, with the Highlanders down to 14 men as Tino Nemani headed to the sin bin.
Peyper eventually got fed up with the Highlanders penalty count and sent Chris King to the bin just as Nemani came back onto the field.
That saw Hore go back onto the park, with Coltman moving to the tighthead for golden oldies scrums.
King returned from the bin just in time to pick up what looked to be a serious shoulder injury with the game going back to golden oldies scrums for the final 12 minutes.
Replacement halfback Fumiaki Tanaka grabbed a try for the Highlanders with eight minutes remaining, but just when it seemed the Bulls would end the game frustrated at not claiming the bonus point, his opposite Jano Vermaak beat the Japanese international down the blindside and sprinted away to the line.
Tamati Ellison scored the Highlanders second try in injury time.
Bulls 35 (JJ Engelbrecht, Akona Ndungane, Pierre Spies, Jano Vermaak
tries; Morne Steyn 3 con, 3 pen) Highlanders 18 (Fumiaki Tanaka, Tamati Ellison tries; Colin Slade 2
pen, Hayden Parker con). HT: 23-6
The Southland Times