There was once again precious little to cheer about for Bulls fans at Loftus Versfeld over the weekend as they went down 13-17 to the Hurricanes, but captain Pierre Spies still believes they are on the right track.
“We believe what we are doing is right, we’re just not executing it well enough. We believe we’re on the right track, although we’re not getting there at the moment,” Spies said after the Bulls’ second successive loss at Loftus Versfeld, where they were unbeaten last season.
For all the big names in the squad, the aura of home invincibility has gone as first a young Stormers pack and now a journeymen Hurricanes eight bossed them around, but Spies is talking as if there are only minor problems to fix.
“You need the bounce of the ball to go your way, although you mustn’t depend on it. I’m hopeful that next week things will fall our way. But we first need to look at ourselves and be more clinical.
“These defeats can still pull the team together, you only learn in tough times, and in 2007 we started with two losses but still had a good season. We’ve worked hard, so I know it will come together,” Spies said.
Spies’s memory of the Bulls’ first SuperRugby title in 2007 is not quite accurate, because they only lost two of their first three games, and only one of those was at home. The Bulls seem to have forgotten the art of winning rugby games when you’re not playing well and coach Frans Ludeke, no doubt feeling the pressure to keep his job, did not tip-toe around their performances in the first fortnight of SuperRugby.
“After two performances like that, you just have to keep quiet and fix it. There are no grey areas, we know what cost us. We have to be more accurate, we have to play with more urgency – we lost a lot of ball at the breakdowns simply because we didn’t have numbers there,” Ludeke said.
The weak refereeing of Andrew Lees at the breakdown certainly had a detrimental effect on the Bulls’ chances, but even there they have only themselves to blame.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said they had “detected” that Lees “lets the contest go on much longer than most” at the breakdown, while the lack of urgency and support play the Bulls showed in getting to the rucks made their one-off ball-carriers easy prey.
The only positives for the Bulls were that flyhalf Handre Pollard had a threatening game with ball in hand and kicked well, Jesse Kriel had some nice runs from fullback, and Trevor Nyakane was solid at tighthead prop.
But it’s been two dismal weeks for the Bulls; the fire has just not been there. One would have expected there to have been a big step up in intensity after the Stormers upstaged them, but if anything, the Bulls were even worse against the Hurricanes.