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Bulls, Lions forge ahead

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The Bulls built an innings thanks to the metronomic boot of Handré Pollard, who produced another faultless display in his 50th Super Rugby match

MISTER FIFTY: Handré Pollard of the Bulls played a blinder on Saturday against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld, keeping the scoreboard ticking and piling the pressure on the visitors. Picture: Gavin Barker / BackpagePix

It may still be early days but a clean sweep of the South African franchises suggests something special is brewing with the Bulls in this year’s Super Rugby competition.

While a stone’s throw away to the south, Lions coach Swys de Bruin has some tough decisions to make after his gamble to pick several former SA Under-20 stars in place of some seasoned men, including national players, for Saturday’s Super Rugby match against the Jaguares at Ellis Park paid off handsomely as the Lions won 47-39 to get their season back on track.

The Bulls claimed their third comprehensive victory over a South African team when they dismantled the Sharks 37-14 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.

The Pretoria side has been exceptional in the opening month of the tournament and coach Pote Human has every reason to be delighted with his charges as they continue to numb the opposition with near-faultless displays.

“It is a dream start for us, unfortunately against the Jaguares we couldn’t put one over them there,” Human said. “We have a break now then we come back and work for the next four before the next break.”

The Bulls built an innings thanks to the metronomic boot of Handré Pollard, who produced another faultless display in his 50th Super Rugby match.

The hosts briefly allowed the Sharks back into the game but managed to keep their cool, scoring three tries to two with Pollard contributing 22 points as he converted all but one of the tries, nailed five penalties and added a drop goal for good measure.

“Today we started well, we had a clinical game in the first half and we let them back in the second half putting pressure on ourselves,” Human said. “I felt at times that we were panicking but we need that too because we fight it out and then score a try to seal it. It is something we can work on but I am happy with the three wins against the SA franchises,” he added.

When asked whether the lack of bonus points could come back to haunt them, Human said their first goal was to win matches and ensure they gained positive momentum. “We just need to win first then the bonus points will come,” he said.

Meanwhile, as for the Lions, as good as the rookies were on Saturday the young guns conceded four late tries to give up the bonus point. A bit more experience on the bench may have prevented that from happening. It is something that irked their coach.

“I am so thankful for the win and so glad for the youngsters who came through so well,” said De Bruin. “We were up against a team with 22 internationals in it, so what we did was phenomenal. To score seven tries against those men and win is very pleasing,” added the coach. “It was a massive test for the youngsters, going up against top guys, and they showed they can do it.

“But I’m not happy that we gave up the bonus point at the end. We also let it slip against the Stormers (two weeks ago) and that is very disappointing. We had built the innings and were on track to record one of the great wins but like a batsman that goes out in the 90s, we let them back in.”

De Bruin will possibly go with most of the rookies again this week when Australia’s best team, the Rebels, visit Joburg, but there’s also a chance he’ll bring back a good few of the more experienced men, even if they only play off the bench.

De Bruin though admitted it would take some effort for some of the senior men to get back into the Lions starting team. “It’s a healthy situation we’re in. Those guys who weren’t in the squad this week will now have to push and work hard (to get back in). We’ll still use our rotation system so guys will come in and others will go out, but we’ll see how everyone trains early in the week,” said De Bruin.

The Rebels are unbeaten and a team De Bruin isn’t taking lightly. “It’s going to be a big test for us,” he admitted.