MELBOURNE – Handre Pollard did not let his imminent move to Montpellier in France distract him from the task at hand as he spurred South Africa’s Bulls to a 32-17 victory over the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.
Springboks flyhalf Pollard, who will join the French outfit at the end of the Super Rugby season, had a hand in virtually all of the Bulls points and combined with fellow South Africa international number eight Duane Vermeulen to take control of the game in the second half.
Pollard scored a try and kicked 12 points while Cornal Hendricks, Burger Odendaal and Rosko Speckman also crossed for the visitors, who won for the first time in three years outside of South Africa and moved to 32 points and the lead of their conference.
The Jaguares are also on 32 points after they beat the Wellington Hurricanes 28-20 earlier.
Marika Koroibete (two) and Will Genia scored for the home side, who had been hoping to overtake the ACT Brumbies (29) at the top of the Australian conference. They remained on 28 points.
Koroibete grabbed his first try as the Rebels dominated the opening exchanges before Pollard started to assert himself on the game.
He provided the cross kick for Hendricks to score in the corner in the South Africans’ first opportunity to put the Rebels under any pressure.
The flyhalf then waltzed over for his try five minutes later and also added a late penalty to give his side a 17-12 halftime lead after Genia had reduced the deficit following some interplay with Hugh Roach down the sideline.
Koroibete levelled the scores in the 43rd minute when he barged over for his second try, before the Bulls took control of the game and Speckman produced a piece of individual brilliance to break the deadlock.
The former rugby sevens international chased his own kick ahead and despite being impeded by Dane Haylett-Petty, he beat Quade Cooper to the ball, re-gathered and immediately collapsed to the ground to ensure he did not go into touch.
He got up and passed to Odendaal, who ran in unimpeded.
Vermeulen and lock RG Snyman continued give their massive pack some impetus and following a series of surges at the line, Pollard’s wide pass put fullback Warrick Gelant into space and he fed to the unmarked Speckman to cross.
Pollard ended the scoring with a 75th-minute penalty that ensured the Rebels could not spark a furious finish.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)