The harshest lesson the Bulls learnt on the tough three-week tour of Australia was that the much-improved intensity and tempo of the game plan still needs to go up to the next level if they are going to reach the playoffs of the SuperRugby competition, assistant coach David Manuel said on Tuesday.
The outcome of the Africa Conference 1 could well be decided by the crunch match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday between the Bulls and the Stormers, and Manuel reckons the home side will have the advantage of experiencing the next step up, while the Capetonians only go overseas after the June break.
“The one thing that stood out was the intensity of the Brumbies and Waratahs which we had never experienced before, they bring a different intensity to the contact areas and in terms of line-speed, and we struggled to adjust. We were under immense pressure, but it was a very good experience.
“We were maybe spoilt in the beginning stages of the competition, we had a favourable draw and the opportunity to play the way we wanted. But Australia was a different challenge and now we know exactly what to expect from the top sides,” backs coach Manuel said at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday.
Apart from trying to increase the tempo of their play even more, Manuel said ball-retention was also the biggest area they need to improve on ahead of the Stormers game.
“The biggest focus point has been respecting the ball more. We created opportunities but then we would release the pressure by forcing a pass or trying something magical. Clearing the ball quicker from the rucks is definitely an area we can improve on too, but for that to happen you need to have good shape, you need guys on their feet otherwise there’s nothing on.
“These are growing pains, but we learnt from our mistakes in the first game against the Stormers that it’s always going to be a set-piece battle. If you don’t have a platform there then the backs will struggle. The result will also go on the advantage line, who gets on the front foot there,” Manuel said.