The Bulls pack may well have come of age in their 17-13 victory over the Stormers in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend, with coach Nollis Marais rating it as their best performance of the season.
The Bulls dominated the scrums, constantly hassled the Stormers’ lineout and were absolutely immense in defending the gainline, all this against a pack with half-a-dozen Springboks including Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth in the engine room.
“I think it was our best performance, especially after our big defeat to them in the first round. We are so young up front, but the guys manned up well. Jannes Kirsten has been good all season – sometimes I think he’s confused as to just how good he is, RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins were playing against guys that are going to the Springbok squad and they really kept them on their toes. They showcased how good they are tonight and all credit to them because they came out and played in a high-pressure match against a team that was very hard off the line,” Marais said.
Having lost the gainline battle in their two previous games against the Brumbies and Waratahs, Marais said his team had learnt how quickly one needs to come off the line in SuperRugby.
“The big thing against the Brumbies and the Waratahs was that we gave them the gainline. They came hard off the line at us and we learnt and showed better speed in defence today. You need a good attack and defence to win and all credit to coach Pine Pienaar for the defence tonight,” Marais said.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck also praised the redoubled efforts of the Bulls’ defensive line.
“You have to give credit to the Bulls’ defence, they worked incredibly hard. We were retaining possession so they were under pressure, but they did incredibly well, slowing us down at the ruck so we never had any quick ball and we couldn’t raise the tempo.
“They brought us down to their pace, which didn’t suit us, it became a set-piece battle, which we didn’t want. We wanted a quick, open game. But you also have to credit the Bulls’ set-pieces – they contested and had our lineout under pressure, so we couldn’t launch from there, and they won penalties at scrum-time. You need to dominate the set-piece in a tight game,” Fleck said.