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Ken Borland


Clear Bulls did not have equity in 2nd half, but Smal praises Lions

Posted on June 14, 2022 by Ken

To Bulls fans at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening, it would have seemed clear that they did not enjoy equity from the referee in the second half of their Currie Cup match against the Lions, but coach Gert Smal preferred to praise the opposition rather than blame the officials after the match.

The Bulls, having led 35-17 at halftime, ended up scraping to a 43-37 win as the Lions piled on relentless pressure in the second half. Referee Griffin Colby ended up penalising the Bulls 18 times in the match, and the Lions just eight times, and at one stage he gave 11 successive penalties to the visitors.

“I don’t want to say anything about the referee,” Smal said, “There is a system in place, comments go through Mark Lawrence and we will do that. We must remember referees are not perfect.

“The Lions started playing really well in the second half. And Juan Mostert had played well at flyhalf in the first half but then got injured, and we had to move Keagan Johannes there.

“So the Lions had their big guys running at our scrumhalf, who had to play flyhalf, and they gained a lot of momentum there. We were always under pressure to close the spaces down.

“It was sad that we could not keep our momentum in the second half, but this Lions team has been together for five weeks and they played very good rugby. They are a good team and they came hard at us. We struggled to get momentum and conceded unnecessary penalties,” Smal said.

Despite spending most of the second half inside their own 22, the Bulls produced a marvellous defensive effort, and Smal praised the tenacity and character they showed to pull through the win.

“In the first half we stuck to our plan, that was the way we wanted to play and it was outstanding. We were composed, the guys did what was expected and we did the small things well.

“In the second half there was big pressure on this team and it was good that they were able to get a good win. My message to them in the changeroom was that I am really proud of them and the way they applied themselves.

“No-one went and hid away and so we got the win by putting our bodies on the line. My captain, Lizo Gqoboka, was a real warrior and you should see what his face looks like now.

“But we would like to do the first-half game for the whole 80 minutes next time,” Smal said.

The Bulls host the Pumas in their next Currie Cup match, on May 27.

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