Bulls coach Jake White wants his team to be flexible, so he was satisfied that they were able to ‘win ugly’ in their opening Rainbow Cup SA match against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.
White had before the game promised an attacking approach if conditions were dry, and the Bulls started superbly, keeping ball in hand for two minutes from the kickoff and then scoring the opening try.
But thereafter they were constrained by a watertight, rapidly approaching Lions defence and the soft underfoot conditions, only managing to cross the tryline again in the 66th and 80th minutes for a 22-9 win.
The victory and a bonus point would also have been in the bag much earlier if the Bulls hadn’t had three tries disallowed due to captain’s referrals.
“Sometimes you’ve got to win these sort of games and we found a way to win,” White said after fhe Bulls’ 13th successive victory at home.
“The Lions were very good at the breakdown. They tried to slow us down all the time. To have four tries disallowed – I think the yellow card for a deliberate knock-on could maybe have been a penalty try – was helluva frustrating because you keep thinking you’ve put a bit of distance between you and the opposition.
“But we know everyone will be coming for us because we’ve won the last two trophies and today we had to vasbyt for the win.”
The Bulls dominated possession but at times they suffered from the rugby equivalent of bulimia – having an over-abundance of ball and generally keeping it in hand meant they also coughed up a lot of possession as the Lions dominated the breakdowns.
“We will work on not being sucked into playing too much rugby. Sometimes we need to be a bit smarterm,” White said.
“But we did end up playing into the wind in both halves because the wind turned… it was a bit extraordinary, something we’re not used to here. But it’s exciting times with guys like Elrigh Louw and Janko Swanepoel just out of the U-21s, Mornay Smith is a young tighthead, Joe van Zyl, Stravino Jacobs and David Kriel are all young.
“But if you have too many youngsters then they can start to panic, so it’s nice for them to learn from the seniors exactly how to close off a game.”