Bulls coach Frans Ludeke sat with a big fat grin in the post-match press conference and with good reason as his team had produced one of their best performances this season in beating the Sharks 17-10 in a hard-fought local derby at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
The Bulls have struggled to win away from home in recent years, with the win over the Cheetahs in the first week of March their first victory on the road in two seasons, so the triumph over the Sharks could be a watershed.
“It’s a great feeling, we haven’t had a lot of wins here over the last few years and it’s always a tough assignment. You have to be at your best, and we played well and we played for the full 80 minutes, closing the game well by squeezing penalties,” Ludeke said.
The Bulls certainly did play well, enjoying the bulk of possession and territory, as their big ball-carriers dominated the attacking rucks and their pack, as a unit, exerted huge pressure at the defensive breakdown.
“We had all the possession and field position, especially in the first half, because we worked hard. We knew they would be competitive at the breakdown, so we put in an extra effort there in terms of ball-security, which all starts with the ball-carrier,” the coach said.
Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold said his team were in the contest throughout and said there was a very narrow line between winning and losing.
“There was no lack of effort, in fact it was a massive effort against such a big, physical team and we were in the game for a large part of it. But if you don’t take literally two or three opportunities and they do, then you’re going to lose,” Gold said.
The defeat has seriously trimmed the Sharks’ chances of winning the South African Conference as they are now seven points behind the Bulls, who have a game in hand, but Gold said their hopes have not been killed yet.
“There is still hope, even though there is unbelievable disappointment and it’s a very sombre dressing room.”