The Jukskei derby at Superhero Sunday produced a try fest as the Bulls kept their heads a bit better to beat the Lions 40-35 at FNB Stadium.
Here are a few themes that emerged from an entertaining, if somewhat flawed game.
Defector Duncan looks hungry
Duncan Matthews asked for his contract at Loftus to be ended a year early because of a lack of game time.
He didn’t feel uncomfortable going to Ellis Park, but he was certainly surprised by Lions attack coach Neil de Bruin telling him to immediately switch to centre after many years on the wing.
He certainly doesn’t seem perturbed, delivering a bustling performance where he scored a brace of tries and consistently embraced being at the heart of his new team’s attacking platform.
The Lions have something to work with here.
Pote’s Manie plan has merit
There were eyebrows raised when Bulls mentor Pote Human decided to hand veteran Morne Steyn the No 10 jersey at the expense of the man he’s going to mentor in 2020, Manie Libbok.
Yet Human didn’t try to hide his motives.
He considers the diminutive Libbok an ace in his pack, a playmaker who can be devastating at fullback.
Admittedly, it took Warrick Gelant’s concussion to bring him on earlier than expected, but Libbok revelled.
He covered the back diligently, while also actively moving into the pivot position in more attacking positions on the field.
Libbok clearly enjoys the freedom and his experience at flyhalf means he also knows how to use cramped space well.
Attacking Lions are too one-dimensional … and mistakes haunt
It’s a strange thing to say, but Lions coach Cash van Rooyen’s approach will need refinement if this is how they’ll play in 2020.
They did well to lead at half-time, but they did so by feasting on the Bulls’ mistakes, who enjoyed a surfeit of possession and territory.
You simply can’t run with the ball if you’re stuck in your own half, and the Lions will need to find a way to get out and launch from there.
The Bulls were sloppy themselves, particularly in the set-pieces, yet somehow managed to keep their heads better than their neighbours, who fell off easy tackles, threw a wild pass into Cornal Hendricks’ path from a defensive scrum and lost numerous balls in contact.
It’s undoubtedly things that can be improved, but you also need to supplement that with composure.
Lions – Tries: Duncan Matthews (2), Dan Kriel, Courtnall Skosan, Krappie van den Berg. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5).
Bulls – Tries: Divan Rossouw (2), Abongile Nonkontwana, Johnny Kotze, Manie Libbok, Cornal Hendricks. Conversions: Morne Steyn (2), Chris Smith (3).