Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies disclosed this week that there were “hard words” spoken amongst the team after their lacklustre opening loss to the Stormers, but they are definitely going to have to do their talking on the field tonight if they are to beat a star-studded Hurricanes side in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld.
The details of the defeat to the Stormers will show that the Bulls were dominated at scrum time, failed to trouble the opposition lineout, missed 18 tackles and conceded eight linebreaks as they lost the gain-line battle, but the single biggest factor in the loss was attitude.
“We’ve had hard words for each other this week, we know that we’re a much better team than that. We made way too many mistakes, which means you can’t build pressure. Against the Hurricanes we have to execute what we do well, we have to take care of the ball and be clinical,” Spies said.
The Hurricanes will field a lethal backline featuring TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, the returning Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane, hence the Bulls stressing the importance of not allowing them turnover ball.
“Broken field is what they want, turnover ball, and like all New Zealand teams if they get front-foot ball and get their offloads going, then they are lethal,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said. “But they also have a strong defence, they’ve definitely improved there, their work-rate is good, they get numbers up in defence, and they’re very competitive at the collisions.”
Judging by the performance against the Stormers, Ludeke’s new game plan seems to be going down with his team like oil with water, but the coach said he can live with the mistakes as long as the decision-making of his players is correct.
“You win games from broken field these days because if you just carry the ball all the time you will eventually lose it. It comes down to decision-making, it’s about space and numbers and not trying to create something that’s not there. Passes not going to hand can happen and sometimes the contact skills of the players let them down, but as long as the attacking mindset is there,” Ludeke said.
The Hurricanes, who beat the Lions last weekend at Ellis Park, don’t have a great record on tour here and the last time they won two games in South Africa was way back in 2006. But they certainly made a statement against the Lions and if the Bulls also make numerous mistakes, then the Wellington-based side has more than enough firepower to punish them.
The Bulls need to up their intensity up front so they don’t look like carthorses again against a mobile Hurricanes pack, while the scrum needs a drastic improvement in the absence of tighthead Marcel van der Merwe with a knee injury.
The Bulls have plenty of talent, but one can’t expect the younger players to do everything; the Bulls’ senior players really need to step up tonight.
Bulls: 15-Jesse Kriel, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Piet van Zyl, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Trevor Nyakane, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Morne Mellet. Reserves – 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Dean Greyling, 18-Grant Hattingh, 19-Hanro Liebenberg, 20-Rudy Paige, 21-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22-Jurgen Visser, 23-Dayan van der Westhuizen.
Hurricanes: 15-Jason Woodward, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-TJ Perenara, 8-Blade Thomson, 7-Callum Gibbins, 6-Brad Shields, 5-James Broadhurst, 4-Mark Abbott, 3-Ben Franks, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Reggie Goodes. Reserves – 16-Brayden Mitchell, 17-Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18-Chris Eves, 19-Ardie Savea, 20-Victor Vito, 21-Chris Smylie, 22-James Marshall, 23-Matt Proctor.