Half-time tweaks 'saved' the Bulls

Sun, 15 Jul 2012 21:13
Large lions v bulls scrum 630

The Bulls are not concerned that their scrum will be exposed against the All Black-laden Crusaders.

The Bulls are not concerned that their scrum will be exposed against the All Black-laden Crusaders.

Their 37-20 win over the Lions at the weekend earned the Bulls the unenviable prize of a trip to Christchurch and an encounter with the seven-time champions in the first round of Super Rugby play-off matches on Saturday.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, who described the win over the Lions as a good 'trial run' for the Crusaders, said he is confident they can fix any problems that crept into their game this past weekend.

The Bulls, after a shaky first half that saw the Lions draw level 20-all, made a few tweaks to their game at the half-time break and produced a far more assured second half.

In a game that was the epitome of all that is good, bad and ugly about the Bulls, they scored four tries and shut the Lions out after the break.

However, 13 sipped tackles and an unsteady scrum in the first half - in which they twice turned the ball over - may suggest all is not well.

Ludeke disagrees.

"The Lions were good on the day ... some tactics they employed caught us short and worked for them," Ludeke told this website, when questioned about the scrum wobbles.

"However, we managed to rectify it at half-time and after the break there was no problem.

"We managed to create a sound base and the initiative they managed to get from the scrums we eliminated.

"All credit to them for a good performance in the first half [in the scrums]."

The line-outs were the exact opposite - the Bulls totally dominated.

They won nine balls on their own throw and lost just one. However, on the Lions' throw the Bulls won six - three by new Springbok Juandre Kruger, while replacement Wilhelm Steenkamp and captain Pierre Spies also contributed in this department.

"[Forwards coach] Johann van Graan worked many long hours on the line-outs to see where small things can make a difference," Ludeke said, adding: "Also, with Wilhelm [Steenkamp] that came in [for the injured Flip van der Merwe], together withy Juandre Kruger did a great job in the line-outs."

The Bulls again had momentary lapses, especially in the first half, but again the coach felt that their game is progressing in the right direction.

"It was better than against the Sharks [a 10-32 loss the previous week]," he said, adding: "We certainly finished more [opportunities].

"There were times when we created opportunities and finished them off, but we are still not where we want it to be.

"Yes, on or two chances we did let slip, but there's already a marked improvement on the previous week.

"We know that this coming weekend, in the quarterfinal [first round of play-offs against the Crusaders] you will have to use every opportunity that comes your way."

Ludeke was also not concerned about the number of slipped tackles, with the Bulls managing just an 84 percent tackle completion rate.

"There were a couple of occasions deep inside our 22, one from a driving maul, from which they scored [in the first half]," he told this website.

"The other was from first phase, that scrum where they cut the line and scored was a communication issue.

"Those are not issues that worry us," he said, adding that they will work on those in training this week.

The Bulls, who are flying out on Monday, have no major injury issues and injured Bok Flip van der Merwe is also good to go.

Ludeke said there are the "usual bumps and bruises", but nothing that will rule any players out.

Their preparations this week - they will have two sessions in New Zealand - will be more of a mental than a physical build-up in which they concentrate on the logistics and recovery.

Ludeke feel his team had a perfect trial run against the Lions, whom he said play a similar style to the Crusaders - often taking the ball wide and more into space.

By Jan de Koning

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