There was a time – actually not that long ago – when it would be a killer joke if a Bulls captain said they wanted match the tempo of the Lions during a match.
The Lions were the street-smart, skillful team while their provincial neighbours were the clumsy bullies with precious little original ideas.
But when Burger Odendaal mentioned it this week ahead of Saturday’s eagerly anticipated Super Rugby derby at Loftus, no-one was laughing.
“The Lions have always tried to up the ante against us,” said the influential midfielder and leader.
“They’ve generally thought that if they lift the tempo, they’ll exploit us. We’re going into this game with the same mentality.
“We want to do the playing and want to force the Lions to adjust to our tempo.”
This isn’t mind games the Bulls are playing.
Under coach John Mitchell, the men from Pretoria have already showed a glimpse of their ability to run opponents ragged.
A good example was the start they made against the Hurricanes last week, where wing Johnny Kotze’s first try was characterised by patience and superb handling.
“We don’t want to get distracted though. It’s a process. There are many things we still want to improve on,” said Odendaal.
One particularly interesting tussle will be at the breakdowns, where the Lions sacrifice a bit of speed to due the absence of Kwagga Smith on compassionate grounds.
In his place, lock Franco Mostert returns to flank, a position familiar to him.
Bulls poacher Roelof Smit might enjoy that though the Lions have the nippy Marnus Schoeman on the bench.
“The Lions have obviously planned for this,” said Mitchell.
“Franco gives them more lineout options and some more ball-carrying ability but I’m not sure it grants them more speed.
“We’ll have to be accurate in the set-pieces. It’s going to be a different challenge. The Lions have got an element of surprise. That’s Swys de Bruin’s way.”