After the Bulls’ heroics at Newlands at the weekend, Quintin van Jaarsveld highlights a handful of other famous 14-man triumphs.
The Bulls displayed exceptional character to snatch a sensational 22-20 win over Western Province in their Currie Cup encounter in Cape Town on Saturday, after losing loosehead Jacques van Rooyen to a red card seven minutes into the second half for what was deemed a dangerous tackle on fullback Warrick Gelant.
The controversial call looked set to spoil the final North-South derby at the old dame of South African rugby but, instead, galvanised the visitors. Powered by passion, the men from Pretoria produced a truly special collective effort to stay in the fight and ultimately stun their traditional rivals at the death.
Trailing 20-15, flyhalf Chris Smith found replacement Marco Jansen van Vuren with a pinpoint crosskick, who went over in the left-hand corner, with Smit showing nerves of steel to slot the winning conversion. It was a fantastic fight-back by the Bulls – befitting of the ‘Last Dance’ at Newlands – and made all the more magical as it snapped an 11-year losing streak at Newlands.
Jake White’s charges inspired us to look back at similarly spectacular shows of outmanned outfits overcoming the odds. Here, then, are five famous victories by spirited 14-man teams…
Western Province Prevail at Loftus
We start with the same two teams and a Currie Cup clash to remember at Loftus Versfeld in 2013. Coached by Allister Coetzee, the Capetonians were dealt a hammer blow when flank Michael Rhodes was red-carded for stepping on Bulls captain Jono Ross’ face in the 34th minute.
The visitors kept their composure and scored their second seven-pointer four minutes after the incident through Damian de Allende. Kurt Coleman kicked a penalty in the 48th minute to add to his two penalties and conversions in the first half, while Gary van Aswegen slotted two drop goals in the final quarter to secure a 29-18 win.
Sharks Shock All and Sundry
White was at the helm when the Sharks recorded their first-ever win over the Crusaders in Christchurch in 2014. The Durban side defied all logic, as flank Jean Deysel saw red for stomping back-rower Jordan Taufua in the 17th minute and were then down to 13 men when No.8 Willem Alberts was yellow-carded for taking out a man in the air in the 64th minute.
Frans Steyn was instrumental in the No.10 jersey, sparking the opening try with a break and outstanding offload to Sibusiso Sithole, converting two of the Sharks’ three tries and landing two penalties. Cobus Reinach scored a good solo try to kick-start a second half in which the lead changed hands five times.
Flyhalf Colin Slade, who scored all of the hosts’ points, nudged the Crusaders in front with a penalty in the 72nd minute, however, the Sharks refused to lose and replacement Kyle Cooper crossed the whitewash three minutes later to seal a historic 30-25 victory.
Ireland Stun the Boks
History was also made at Newlands when an inspired Ireland secured their first-ever win over the Springboks on South African soil in 2016. Loose forward CJ Stander infamously knocked out Pat Lambie with a leaping charge-down attempt in the 23rd minute. South African-born Stander received his marching orders, while the incident significantly altered Lambie’s career and led to the Springbok utility back retiring at the age of 28 in 2019 as part of a series of head injuries.
Ireland, missing a number of first-choice players, had to see out the final 10 minutes of the first half with 13 men after centre Robbie Henshaw’s yellow card. An error-prone Springbok side, however, lacked direction in their first match under Coetzee and couldn’t capitalise on their numerical advantage.
Fullback Jared Payne and scrumhalf Conor Murray dotted down while flyhalf Paddy Jackson converted both tries, kicked three penalties and landed a drop goal for a stunning 26-20 win. The shock loss was a sign of things to come for South Africa in the disastrous Coetzee era.
Racing Topple Toulon in Top 14 Final
Played in front of a record 99,124 crowd at the Nou Camp, home of Spanish football giants Barcelona, a Racing 92 side with Dan Carter in their ranks claimed their first Top 14 title in 26 years despite having to play over an hour with 14 men. In a final for the ages, scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud was red-carded for a tip-tackle on Toulon No.10 Matt Giteau in the 19th minute of the 2016 decider. Toulon hardly needed an advantage as they were eyeing their fourth consecutive French crown, but Racing 92 had other ideas.
Star flyhalf Carter and Johan Goosen, playing in the No.13 jersey, put the boot to the defending champions to earn the underdogs the lead, which winger Joe Rokocoko stretched to 12 with an excellent piece of individual brilliance. Toulon threw everything at their handicapped opponents in the final 10 minutes, with midfielder Maxime Mermoz dotting down, but Racing 92 held on for a 29-21 title-clinching triumph.
England Dig Deep for 76 Minutes
England always enter encounters against Argentina as favourites, especially at Twickenham, as was the case in this 2016 showdown, but Owen Farrell and company had to dig down deep following Elliot Daley’s dismissal in just the fourth minute. The winger became the first England back ever to be red-carded after taking out Leonardo Senatore in the air, with the No.8 crashing down onto his neck.
England looked relatively unperturbed, though, as they established a 16-0 lead before a yellow card to tighthead Dan Cole allowed Argentina to score tries either side of half-time via replacement Facundo Isa and fullback Santiago Cordero. A try by wing Jonny May sealed the deal for the depleted English, who emerged 27-14 victors in a match that produced six cards in all.