Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke admitted after his team’s 26-15 defeat at the hands of the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld that the disintegration of their lineout had been the death of their chances in their Absa Currie Cup match on Saturday night.
“Our lineout collapsed tonight and you need those sort of basics in order to win, that meant we weren’t able to put pressure on the Sharks through that. The way the Sharks contested the lineout put us under huge pressure, they would move just before the call and we didn’t adapt well enough and it meant we lost a key weapon. We need to be smarter at the lineout because it has a huge mental impact in our game, if you lose your lineouts then you’re always on the back foot,” Ludeke said after the match.
The defeat left the Bulls woefully off the pace in the Currie Cup, in sixth place, five points behind the Pumas and Cheetahs, and killing the momentum from two wins in a row.
“Trusting the process is the main thing, it was able to get us out of a bad start in the competition and we had some good wins. We had some good momentum with wins at home and we don’t want to lose here. The big thing is getting the tactical decisions right under pressure,” Ludeke said.
The Bulls thoroughly dominated the first half, but only had four Jacques-Louis Potgieter penalties to show for it, adding one more in the second half, while the Sharks were able to make much better use of their possession, scoring tries through wings Lwazi Mvovo and S’bura Sithole.
But according to Ludeke, their inability to cross the tryline is not a problem.
“The reason we didn’t score any tries is because of infringements at the breakdown, we had three penalties there and that’s where tries come from. We were in control in the first 40 minutes, but every time we got three points, we wouldn’t exit properly and they would get an easy three points back. We want to build the innings and take the three-pointers,” he said.
Mvovo scored a 50-metre intercept try a minute before half-time to allow the Sharks to go into the break with a 13-12 lead despite looking totally out of the contest and at odds with referee Quinton Immelman’s interpretations.
Buoyed by the late bonus, they came out a different side in the second half and held on to their possession much better, often simply refusing to let the ball die. Their second try, nine minutes into the second half, was a case in point.
Mvovo burst clear on a splendid run off a lineout move to put the Sharks on attack, and Sithole on the right and fullback SP Marais on the left flank both went to great lengths to keep the ball alive, while eighthman and captain Tera Mthembu’s storming run took the visitors into the Bulls’ 22.
From a ruck in the 22, flyhalf Lionel Cronje then produced a deft cross-kick for Sithole to score in the corner.
Cronje added the conversion and two more penalties to complete a fine game for the former Bulls player.
“We knew it would take an 80-minute effort up here and it was great to see such huge commitment. They showed a huge amount of character, making tackle after tackle and they kept working for each other.
“We’ve struggled this year to take our opportunities, but that was good tonight which was great to see. We also had good reward at the breakdown, which kept the Bulls under pressure, while the lineouts were a huge bonus. We know they like to maul, so we were able to deprive them of the opportunity to do what they’re really good at. I’m very happy with the contesting,” Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson said.