The much-vaunted Bulls pack was a bit of a sleeper in the first half of their decisive Rainbow Cup SA match against the Sharks at Kings Park at the weekend, but a thoroughly dominant third quarter laid the platform for a comfortable 34-22 win.
And though it is the nature of coaching to always be critical of something, Bulls coach Jake White was satisfied that their mission in Durban was accomplished.
With both sides scoring a try apiece in the first half, the Bulls held a narrow 13-10 lead at the break, but they had notched their crucial fourth, bonus-point try by the hour mark. That assured them of their place in the Rainbow Cup final against Benetton in Treviso next weekend.
The final quarter saw the Sharks fight back, as the Bulls were given two yellow cards, but the visitors held on.
“I was very happy with our defence with 13 men because the Sharks have some really good attacking players,” White said.
“I would have preferred to have 15 men finish the game, but our experience told at the end.”
White said they had got what they wanted out of the match, ahead of the north-south grand final.
“The message the whole time to the players was to go for the win and play the way we always play,” he said.
“If it took until the 79th minute, we had to believe that the fourth try would come, and we had to back our intensity and keep the ball in play. I’m very happy we showed we can handle the pressure.”
Sharks coach Sean Everitt said his team did not have any right to make excuses for their defeat.
“We put ourselves in position to get the four tries we needed,” Everitt said.
“We had six entries into the Bulls’ 22 in the first half alone, but we only converted one of them so we can’t make any excuses. We just weren’t able to convert, losing the ball over the line, and then things unravelled in the second half with soft penalties.
“There was ill-discipline at times too, which the players must take responsibility for. We need to cut down on our error-rate.”