There was a touch of irony to the way the Lions eventually comfortably disposed of the Bulls in their Super Rugby derby at the weekend.
While a scoreline of 49-35, which featured 11 tries, would indicate a freewheeling, attacking game, the men from Johannesburg actually laid their foundation by playing the type of rugby dished up by the outstanding Bulls side of the previous decade.
Indeed, two tries for the props, Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen, came from powerful driving mauls while hooker Malcolm Marx also muscled over from close range.
Yet Bulls coach John Mitchell was reluctant to say his troops were caught off-guard by that tactic.
“They got us in one area (the driving maul) and exposed our system,” said the New Zealander.
“It’s actually an area we’ve been developing and doing well in but in this game it conceded four tries. That then feeds into the rest of the game, it’s an amazing game actually. We didn’t pay attention to detail in that one area.
“But I really don’t think the Lions caught us out. Our system really is pretty good. At the end of the day, the driving maul is something we practice every week. Somehow we just didn’t get it right.”
The result is certainly a reality check for the Bulls’ stakeholders – especially fans – though it’s unlikely that the team itself will be too shocked.
After all, they’re very much still early in their cycle of development under Mitchell.
“I don’t think this result is a step back in our development but it wasn’t a good performance,” said the Bulls mentor.
“We have to determine what we did wrong and go back into our process. It’s about checking where we came short as a coaching group and what details the players might’ve missed.”
The Bulls departed on Sunday for their three-match tour of Australasia.
Bulls touring squad:
Forwards: Pierre Schoeman, Lizo Gqoboka, Trevor Nyakane, Conraad van Vuuren, Frans van Wyk, Jaco Visagie, Adriaan Strauss, Jason Jenkins, RG Snyman, Lood de Jager, Roelof Smit, Marco van Staden, Thembelani Bholi, Hanro Liebenberg, Nic de Jager
Backs: Andre Warner, Embrose Papier, Handre Pollard, Marnitz Boshoff, Manie Libbok, Burger Odendaal (captain), Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze, Travis Imaiel, Divan Rossouw, Warrick Gelant, Duncan Matthews.