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Ken Borland

Bulls need exuberance of puppies … and patience of a crocodile

Posted on May 19, 2022 by Ken

The Bulls will need to combine the exuberance of puppies in terms of the tempo of their play but also the patience of a crocodile waiting to attack when they take on Benetton Treviso in their United Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, and scrumhalf Zak Burger will have a big responsibility when it comes to getting that balance right.

The match starts at 2pm in Pretoria, so the combination of altitude, intensity and heat should work against the Italians, who have travelled a long way for the match. But pushing too hard, as the Bulls did in the narrow loss to the Stormers, leads to mistakes and turnovers. Conversely, the Bulls were probably a bit too conservative in the first half of their match against Ulster, before scoring four tries in the second half to turn a 3-9 halftime deficit into a resounding 34-16 win.

“Because Benetton are coming from Italy and playing at 2pm at altitude, we definitely want to speed the game up,” Burger said. “But we’ve also got to be patient and work through the phases.

“We weren’t clinical enough against the Stormers, which was like a Test match. The way they defend, with a very hard line, is a bit like the Springboks and that’s why they concede very few tries.

“They also disrupted our breakdown and we lost a lot of ball in contact, which allowed the Stormers to play from turnovers. It’s about knowing when to kick and when to run.

“Against Ulster, we went into the first half with probably too much of a kicking mindset, and Jake White said we must play a bit. He gave us the confidence in the second half to give the ball more air,” Burger said.

Benetton famously won their only previous meeting with the Bulls, thumping them 35-8 in the Rainbow Cup final last June in Treviso, but the Currie Cup champions are now a much more streetwise team when it comes to how the game is played (and officiated) by the Europeans.

But the visitors will be boosted on Saturday by all their Italy representatives.

“Benetton won the Rainbow Cup and they will have all their international players back from the Six Nations,” Burger pointed out. “I think there are 12 from the team that beat Wales in Cardiff, so they will be full of confidence.

“It’s going to be a very hard match and we need to be clinical and take our chances. They totally outplayed us in the Rainbow Cup final, but we have moved on, we’ve learnt a few things since then, new ways of playing,” Burger said.

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