CAPE TOWN – “Sorry we couldn’t do it today.” That was the message from Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee to the team’s supporters after they were outplayed in a 35-8 defeat to Benetton in the Rainbow Cup final in Treviso on Saturday night.
The hosts scored five tries and overwhelmed the men from Pretoria with a dizzying combination of creativity, physicality and hunger in a streetwise performance that clinched the title in astonishing fashion.
Benetton had failed to win a single PRO14 game last season, but went unbeaten through the Rainbow Cup this time around and topped it off with a superb display in front of 1 000 spectators at the Stadio di Monigo.
Jake White’s team, though, looked like they were out of ideas in trying to stop the Benetton onslaught amongst the forwards and the backs.
.@BenettonRugby proved too strong for the @BlueBullsRugby as they hammered the Pretoria-based side to win the @PRO14Official #RainbowCup title in Treviso on Saturday.— IOL Sport (@IOLsport) June 19, 2021
By @ashfakmohamed https://t.co/xqL3oJtZ5e
“Fair play to Benetton. They came out and beat us in every area – whether it was the kicking game plan, or physicality... right territories in the game. They played a tremendous game of rugby and are thoroughly deserved winners,” Coetzee said in a post-match TV interview.
“I just want to say thank you to all the supporters for the whole week. We really appreciate it from the Bulls camp. Sorry we couldn’t do it today. The boys are hurting at the moment, but we will take it on the chin. We will take our learnings and we will look to the future then.”
The Bulls were unable to secure clean lineout ball, while their mauls were also stopped by Benetton. The South Africans were sloppy on defence too, and the Italian club proved that they will be hard to beat in next season’s United Rugby Championship.
“That was a big statement from them. I thought they were brilliant in the kicking game plan – they put us under heaps of pressure there, and kicked us into the corners,” the Bok loose forward said.
“They played off the right possession. In the first half, we had so few possessions of the ball, but that’s doing your homework. That’s smart coaching, that’s smart players and everything.
“We will take it on the chin, and we will take our learnings from this and look forward to the Currie Cup. They are playing on their home field. They are playing in front of their fans, and there was going to be extra passion in the heart.
“They played above their skins today – thoroughly deserved winners and champions of the Rainbow Cup.”
It was the sweetest of victories for Benetton captain Dewaldt Duvenage, who tasted defeat at the hands of the Bulls in the 2010 Super Rugby final for the Stormers.
Asked if he saw such a one-sided result coming, the scrumhalf said: “To be honest, yes! Just the build-up, the stars were aligned for this week. Playing at home… that doesn’t happen in the final as it’s normally a neutral ground.
“I’m all out of words. I’m just proud of the boys, proud of the organisation, proud of Benetton Rugby. Super-stoked!
“It is a bit (more satisfying to beat a SA team). Beforehand, reading the papers and journalists in South Africa, they (saw us) as an unknown factor, and maybe that counted for us as they didn’t know what to expect.
“The boys upfront physically (did well), and tactically, we were really good. In this weather, it was tough to play with ball-in-hand, so we pushed them into the corners. And our defence – credit to Marius Goosen, our defence coach, as well.
“Our brand of rugby is quite expansive – our offload game is amazing! Our set-pieces, backline – literally everything just stuck today. The ball was tough to handle, but it looks so easy with the guys offloading.
“Our backs, great. Even our loose forwards can offload. We really trained hard the whole year, and everything just came together in one match.”