'Small things' let Bulls down
SUPER RUGBY REACTION: The Bulls were staring down both barrels at half-time against the Stormers, trailing 0-24, but they stuck to their guns and fought back valiantly in the second half to grab four tries.
It was certainly not a typical Bulls performance as they were completely dominated in the scrums and there was no cohesion to their line-outs. In simple terms, their set-pieces were simply not good enough and they were punished for it.
They conceded a further two tries in the final 40 minutes - to go with three in the first half. A clear indication that they paid for their errors.
"We were not good in the line-outs, we were dominated in the scrums and when we attacked, we lost the ball. We had a few chances in the first half but we could not capitalise and lost the ball. We should never have lost the ball [in the Stormers' 22], we had to keep the ball better and score from it.
"Rugby remains a basic game where you need to do the small things better than your opponents - maul, setpieces, scrums. When you don't have that platform to attack from and you play guys like Pieter-Steph [du Toit], you are going to struggle the entire time and they will push you back in the tackle - increasing the pressure.
"We have the game and we have the players but if you want to play against the best, you need to do the small things right. There's no point in playing an expansive game if you can't scrum and execute a line-out [correctly]," Bulls head coach Nollis Marais said.
It was always going to take something special to overturn a 24-point half-time deficit, however, they were unable to. Despite the result, Marais took some consolation from an otherwise under-par performance.
"I thought the guys fought a bit and got some points on the board [in the second half]. Overall, it was not a good performance from us but we will take consolation from the fact that we could still score four tries in the second half.
"We needed to show character and fight [in the second half] and the guys fought the entire time. I feel that we could have put more points on the board but were let down by the small errors that put us under pressure.
"However, to score 24 points in the second half was good, so there is certainly a lot of positives we can take from the game," he added.
Bulls captain Handre Pollard, in his return to the competitive arena after being sidelined for 13 months, echoed Marais' sentiments about the second half performance.
"I think we showed a lot of character in the second half and we will use that in preparation for the Cheetahs [Saturday, March 4].
"It's not easy standing behind the poles three times in the first half but we stuck to our plan and as we knew it would work if we executed it and I think we did that in the second half. We did not fail to match the tempo of the game.
"Our set-pieces let us down and they [Stormers] capitalised on our errors," Pollard said.
It was not the best return to the playing field for the flyhalf though as he uncharacteristically missed a number of kicks at goal.
"My performance was certainly not good enough, so there is a lot of hard work ahead for me. On the kicking front, I was striking it brilliantly but kept leaking it to the right. So I certainly need to improve," Pollard added.
The Bulls will head into their next encounter against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein without the services of Lodewyk de Jager after the lock suffered a concussion during the encounter.
By Tauriq Ebrahim