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    Bulls’ skipper Spies slated

    2015-05-29 21:08

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town - Bulls captain Pierre Spies found himself under a critical microscope from television pundits as his charges stumbled to a third successive Super Rugby overseas tour defeat this season on Friday, and embarrassing 10th abroad on the trot.

    As it happened: Brumbies v Bulls

    The Pretoria-based side did bank a losing bonus point from their 22-16 reverse to the Brumbies in Canberra, but the result was another heavy blow both to their conference-winning and playoffs-qualifying aspirations.

    They have now managed a mere two points from a possible 15 in Australasia, and will be trying to stave off a whitewash when they round off the venture against the Rebels in Melbourne next Saturday.

    The latest setback, which sees the Bulls slip to ninth overall, only enhances the likelihood that the Stormers will advance to the conference spoils, as they stayed two points clear of the Bulls with this Saturday’s home clash against the Cheetahs - which they are strongly tipped to win - still in hand.

    All going well for them over the next two weekends, the Capetonians may just go into the final round, when they face the taxing derby hurdle of the Sharks away, already assured of the domestic spoils.

    The Bulls are currently level on points (36) with compatriots the Lions after 14 fixtures each, but having won one less game - seven to the eight of Warren Whiteley’s outfit, who are about to face the Waratahs.

    Some consolation for the tourists is that they when they tackle the Rebels, the Australian side will just have returned through time zones from their own SA safari.

    But the Bulls still have plenty of soul-searching to do - and you wonder whether they ever genuinely get down to that? - if they wish to return pretty swiftly to winning form.

    Their defence continues to be a confusing mix of admirably tenacious and rank poor (they were outdone 3-1 in the tries column by the Brumbies) but their tactical approach came under special fire from SuperSport’s studio analysts afterwards.

    Spies was a central theme on that score. Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell, clearly pointing to the leadership as much as anything, said: “I just don’t get their (tactical) logic.”

    He was especially referring to their bewildering decision in the last quarter, soon after registering their lone try through a thunderous rolling maul, not to rumble up a lineout ball that way after winning one off their own throw deep in enemy territory.

    Instead it was quickly spun to the backline and the home team’s open-side flank David Pocock, a constant nuisance at the breakdown, gleefully turned it over before you could even ask yourself: “just why did they do that?”

    Then as the seconds ticked away to the final whistle, and the Bulls desperately needed to keep the ball infield in their quest to snatch a match-turning seven-pointer, they worked a very cramped blindside and Bjorn Basson was all too tamely bundled into touch.

    Mitchell accused the Bulls’ pack of “not working hard enough off the ball” and he also contended that Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard, whose form in general play has slipped a little in recent weeks, needed to be given “more scope for the decision-making (rather than Spies) on attack”.

    Wallaby wing icon David Campese, meanwhile, was even more blunt about the Loftus-based team’s captain.

    “No 8 was non-existent today ... you don’t see him. He is not dominant.”

    Campese also said too much of the Bulls’ play on their own ball was predictable: “Everything’s slow; they just set up a pod and then bash it up.”

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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