The Bulls may have battled in the scrums in the 34-33 loss to the Lions, but coach Jake White is confident that they can solve any issues during the week-long break in the Rainbow Cup SA competition.
CAPE TOWN – The Bulls may have battled in the scrums in the 34-33 loss to the Lions, but coach Jake White is confident that they can solve any issues during the week-long break in the Rainbow Cup SA competition.
And the fact that the Pretoria side are still leading the log on 15 points, four more than the Stormers and Sharks, gives the former Springbok mentor some peace ahead of the last two rounds.
The Bulls’ problems at Ellis Park on Saturday afternoon started in the scrums, where much-vaunted Springboks Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane were penalised a number of times by referee AJ Jacobs after coming under pressure from Lions duo Sti Sithole and Carlu Sadie.
The latter in particular produced yet another commanding performance, and must surely be attracting the attention of Bok coach Jacques Nienaber.
Yet, despite their set-piece issues and conceding four tries, the Bulls were still in charge at 33-20 with about 30 minutes to go following flyhalf Chris Smith’s try and conversion, and inexplicably allowed the hosts to fight their way back. Replacement Lions pivot Fred Zeilinga clinched the victory with his own try and conversion in the final 10 minutes.
“We were up at 33-20 and it was about 15 minutes to go, and we probably shot ourselves in the foot a little bit – we dropped the kickoffs, we didn’t find touch when we got a penalty,” White said.
“In our scrum, you can’t not get your set-piece. We get turnovers, then we go back and give a penalty away, whatever and we put ourselves under pressure.
“So, I must stress what I said the whole week: the margins are so small in this competition, and there’s no one plays four. The Lions could’ve won last week, and that’s the pressure you feel when you’re in these competitions.
“You can’t afford to drop your guard, so all credit to the Lions. They got stuck in there, as they always do, and they played differently this week. They tried to score tries instead of kicking to the corners all the time or kick for poles. As I said, they deserve the result.”
Congrats to the Emirates Lions on a hard fought win. Always enjoy fighting it out in the Jukskei derby. Thanks for hosting us! Onto the next one!
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) May 22, 2021
The Bulls scrum wasn’t helped when Gqoboka went off with an ankle injury before the 30-minute mark, while Nyakane didn’t come out for the second half, which meant that youngsters Gerhard Steenekamp and Mornay Smith had to contend with Sithole and Sadie.
“It’s such a difficult thing because I mean, the same scrum demolished (the Sharks) last week and won nine scrum penalties. And now we want to dissect every scrum,” White said.
“Let’s not forget that Mornay Smith is relatively young as a tighthead and Gerhard Steenekamp as a loosehead … They’ve got to learn different techniques, and it’s not always the same.
“Many teams scrum differently to the way the Lions scrum. The only way they are going to learn is to put them into those situations. It might be the timing, it might be the spacing that we had … Maybe it was the binding, and there are terms like de-loading and loading, and we will see.
“Their scrum is good, and once they got us in our half, and our scrum was struggling, it was happy for them to just take a scrum all the time. A couple of months ago, they would’ve taken the three points and kicked it over.
“It’s a challenge, and maybe we wouldn’t have been exposed today because they would’ve kicked the ball over, taken the three and gone back to the halfway line – and we wouldn’t have been challenged in that area.
“It’s something that we’ll just have to sit and talk about. I don’t think it’s something that we can’t fix… we’ll fix it.”
With all four teams on a break, the Springboks will hold another alignment camp this week. The Bulls top the standings on 15 points, with the Stormers and Sharks on 11 – although the Capetonians are second due to a better points difference. The Lions are fourth on eight points.
White said that Gqoboka’s ankle injury “doesn’t look too serious”, although there will also be some concern over captain Duane Vermeulen, who was replaced by Nizaam Carr in the second half.
Vermeulen told SuperSport in a post-match TV interview that he had twisted his ankle. “We will see after that, but hopefully we will recover quickly.”
The Bulls will face the Stormers next on Friday, June 4 at Loftus Versfeld (7pm kickoff) and then take on the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, June 12 (6.15pm), which could be a decider to determine who qualifies for a possible final against the Rainbow Cup winners from Europe.
“A win is four points, and we got two (against the Lions),” White said.
“We are still one game ahead of everybody with four points ahead, and teams still have to come here and play against the Lions, and you saw how good they are. So, a lot of things can still happen, and we’ve still got our destiny in our hands.”