The Bulls really came to the party after halftime in their Super Rugby Unlocked match at Ellis Park against what Jake White described as a “spoiling” Lions side, the coach saying their 30-25 win was a fantastic result for the log-leaders.
While the Bulls started well, the Lions dominated the second quarter and led 15-10 at the break, dominating the scrums and just generally showing more urgency. But the Bulls, no doubt after a tongue-lashing from White, raised the intensity in the third quarter and opened up a 23-15 lead going into the last 20 minutes. From there the Bulls kept their cool and held off a Lions side that should be proud of their tremendous effort.
“It’s always tough to win away from home and that was a fantastic away win,” White said afterwards.
“I was really proud of the second-half performance – after a lot of disruptions having to change our hooker on Thursday and then losing both props, plus a flank in the first five minutes – for the other guys to produce 40 minutes like that when they haven’t had much time together as a unit was phenomenal.
“It was a tough game, but sometimes you have to win ugly. After halftime we were a different team. I demanded a response during the break and they delivered. I hope it’s not like this every week though because you want the team to show a bit of drive from inside as well.
“We were poor in the first half but we played really well in the second half. And we’ve won every second half this season which is nice conditioning-wise.”
White is one of the most meticulous planners in South African rugby and he was delighted that his team managed to subdue the ferocious challenge the Lions threw at them, at the breakdowns in particular.
“I’m very happy with the breakdowns based on the back row the Lions chose, because they clearly wanted to spoil and make the game scrappy,” he said.
“They were probably a bit fortunate to not have the lawbook used against them more; at one stage there were five ruck infringements in a row. Their goal was to break our rhythm and they did that quite well, plus we had no real go-forward in the set-pieces.
“Our maul was quite good but we are still a work in progress. But it was nice to play both games, using both the pack and the backs, and it looked like we got the balance right in the end. If the backs can play like that when we don’t have forward dominance, then they’ll have gained a lot of confidence for the games ahead. The Lions tried to make the whole game slow and scrappy and we just couldn’t get our rhythm until the second half,” White said.