Pretoria – There comes a time during the Super Rugby season when one game can make or break your campaign and for the Bulls it happened in their 34-0 win over the Southern Kings on Saturday.
While many would have spoken about the guts and heart with which the Kings play and that they are the surprise packages of this year’s competition, it is worth noting that the Bulls announced their intention to be there when it matters most, at the end of the season.
As far as performances go, this was probably the Bulls’s best showing this season, but it is the way they went about trampling the Kings that would have been most satisfying to the team, but scary for their next opponents the Waratahs at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday.
The Bulls have often been criticised for their ping-pong kicking game with many believing that it is outdated and no longer effective.
But fact is that the kicking game has brought the Bulls three Super Rugby trophies in the past six years and evidence of it still being relevant was clear for all to see at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
The Bulls were clinical, controlled, patient and made the right decisions almost all the time.
There was a mix of kicking, lots of mauling, precision in the set-pieces especially at lineout time, but what stood out was the Bulls’s ability to attack with deadly force with ball in hand, a trait put to good use by flyhalf Morné Steyn that resulted in two first-half tries.
Bulls captain Pierre Spies and his team, though, are not allowing the victory to lull them into a false sense of belief that their march to the play-offs is a already a foregone conclusion.
“Each team poses a different challenge, but I think this was our best performance so far this season, especially with the fact that we scored four tries away from home. It was a good performance. We worked hard and were rewarded.
“It was a disruptive week. A lot of our players had to go to the Springbok camp, our coach was blessed with three more kids and for us we had just one day together as a team. It was certainly rewarding in the sense that when we focus on certain things they come right. We needed this win and we will start all over again on Monday to build on it,” said Spies.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke commended his team for having taken their game to a higher level and even though they went through a second-half slump before finishing with a flourish to get that vital bonus point, Ludeke could not have asked for a better performance from his side.
“Credit to the boys, to Pierre and his leadership. We really took it to the next level. In the second half we had a lot of disruptions and it looked like we needed to be happy with the win, until there were some special moments in those last 10 minutes.”
“There was some good decision making by our nine, ten and the backs, especially from the restarts. We pulled in a lot of guys with our mauls so there was a lot of space out wide and Morné picked it up and we scored that brilliant try by Jano Vermaak. There were a few opportunities, but credit to the Kings: they kept us out by defending well which has been their trademark this season,” Ludeke said.
The victory propelled the Bulls to the top of the South African conference and to third spot on the combined log, but there is a real sense within the Bulls team that the hard work begins now and bonus points collected along the way will be vital if they are to secure a play-off spot.
“That bonus point was vital. We almost did enough in the first half to get there but we weren’t accurate enough. In the second half they came out with a huge performance, we gave a lot of penalties away and we lost momentum.
“Those last 10 minutes were special to score two tries, especially that last one for the bonus point. This competition is about bonus points. To also stop them from scoring was important for us. We know that the points difference is going to play a huge role so there was a lot to play and defend for. We’ll take the win, but on Monday (today) we get back to serious work because there is still an entire competition ahead of us,” Ludeke said.
This week the Bulls could be boosted by the return of Springboks Wynand Olivier and Francois Hougaard, but lock Paul Willemse looks set to be sidelined for a month after suffering a knee injury on Saturday. – Pretoria News
Article source: http://www.thepost.co.za/bulls-at-their-best-yet-1.1504329