VIDEO: Rebel tactics failed against 'well-coached' Bulls
SUPER RUGBY REACTION: Rebels coach Dave Wessels admitted his team's attempt to 'slow down the game' failed miserably against the Bulls.
Wessels felt his side's second half performance in the 10-28 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria at the weekend should give his young team confidence for the rest of the season.
The Rebels lost key personnel in captain Adam Coleman, fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and back row forward Ross Haylett-Petty to injury - all by half time.
Trailing 3-21 at the main break, the Rebels rallied to put the first try of the second half on the board through scrumhalf Michael Ruru.
The visitors then had a chance to force a second just minutes later if not for a knock-on, that would've seen the margin cut to inside one straight try.
While the Rebels couldn't eat any further into the Bulls' lead, Wessels said the performance across the second half set a blueprint for his team.
"We purposely slowed down the game in the early part, just to try and take away some of the energy from the early part of the contest and then try to finish over the top [of the Bulls] strong," Wessels
"I thought we finished the game with an intensity that we showed at the back end of the game and started to really play well.
"I think at one point it was 21-10 and we really hustled them in their 22, and had we scored there - [to make it] 21-17 - it was going to be a tight game.
"It's a real credit to the Bulls, I think they're an excellent side. They're well coached and they obviously deserved the win."
Rebels captain Adam Coleman credited his players' resilience, as Jordan Uelese (arm) joined the list of injuries sustained during the match, while many Rebels players were cramping in the latter stages of the game.
However the captain stopped short of labelling the conditions as his side's excuse.
"We've been to Japan and played an afternoon game, so we've done that before," Coleman said post-match.
"Obviously altitude is a factor, but we didn't talk about that a lot during the week. We really wanted to stay task-focussed and worry about things that we could control during the game, and not worry about the uncontrolled variables that can affect us.
"Especially in the first half, it was a bit of an arm wrestle. Both backs were very competitive at scrum time, and I thought that [it] showed out there.
"They went to the line a lot and I was really proud of the boys' [defensive] efforts. The Bulls are a quality mauling side and for the boys to put their hands up and stop them in that area, that's a massive positive."
With the extent of the injuries to be assessed in the coming days, Wessels said the Rebels' ability to control the speed of the match was important. And with only a six-day turnaround until the team faces the Stormers - who fell to the Sharks in Durban 24-17 last night - the team will take the loss as another stepping stone.
"I should be clear that…we wanted to slow the game at the appropriate times, and then play with a burst of energy at the appropriate time," Wessels said.
"I thought we managed that quite well. We let a soft try in at half time, and had we not done that at 14-3 and maybe slotted one or two of those penalties…the game is pretty competitive.
"We finished strong in the second half, which was our plan. We probably just left ourselves with a little too much to do.
"For me personally, we are a team that is learning and we're hoping to get better every time that we play. The real win for us today was the intensity and the love we played with within the team, which wasn't there last week [against the Jaguares].
"That hurt a lot more then than it does today. I know that we are going to win more games, we just need to keep working at things and we'll go far."
The Rebels face the Stormers at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on Friday.