It was hardly confidential that the Bulls were vulnerable in the scrums when they opened their SuperRugby campaign against the Stormers at Newlands, but captain Adriaan Strauss was nevertheless disappointed that his team gave their hosts so much opportunity to dominate that set-piece as they romped to an impressive 33-9 victory.
“The Stormers scrummed well in the second half and we also struggled against the Lions in the latter part of that warm-up game. There are technical things we need to work on and improve, but the coach said before the game that scrummaging would be our challenge and that’s precisely where the Stormers took us on and they won that battle.
“But we didn’t give them that opportunity in the first half, it was a tactical game, there wasn’t much space, a typical, hard South African derby. The Stormers took their opportunities in the second half but we gave them some of those. It’s frustrating because I know the side has got potential, like we showed in the first half, but then we didn’t play to our ability in the second half. Credit to the Stormers for playing very well, but we made silly mistakes at the lineouts and we didn’t apply pressure, giving them easy exits,” hooker Strauss said after the game.
Bulls coach Nollis Marais hinted that the true valuation of his side will only come further down the line, perhaps not even during this year’s SuperRugby competition.
“The match showed how young and inexperienced we are in certain positions. But we need to play these youngsters, they’ll get better every week and will be ready down the line. Otherwise two years from now we will have the same problem. It’s not nice, but we have to stick with it and the guys have to learn. A match like that is not fun, but it’s a good way to learn and the team will grow every week,” Marais said.
“The big question mark was always going to be whether we were under pressure in the set-pieces and the Stormers did that to us in the second half. Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit showed their class in the lineouts and they had very good substitutions in the scrum. If you don’t win your set-pieces, you can have thousands of plans, but without good scrum or lineout ball, you can’t attack,” the coach added.