News24

Bulls’ worrying retreat

2012-07-07 12:03

Cape Town - Given a serious taste of their own, confrontational medicine by a pumped-up Sharks team on Friday night, the Bulls have some soul-searching to do if they are to make much progress in the Super Rugby finals series.

First they have to just get to the playoffs, of course, although common sense suggests they ought to be capable of seeing off ailing neighbours the Lions at Loftus, probably even with a bonus point if it is needed in the final round of ordinary season next Saturday night.

It is the very last fixture ahead of the playoffs phase, so the Bulls will be in the advantageous position of knowing exactly what they have to do in the Highveld derby.

As things stand, there is a heartening chance of three South African teams making the six-team finals series, although overseas travel for “qualifiers” ahead of the semis is highly likely for both the Bulls, currently lying fifth, and the sixth-placed Sharks.

Both teams will definitely make the playoffs cut if they earn victories with four tries against the Lions and Cheetahs (at Mr Price Kings Park) respectively.

The Stormers, still with an outstanding game in the current round against the Cheetahs (Bloemfontein, 15:00), are increasingly likely to have the luxury of a ticket straight into a home semi. 

The Bulls lie above the Sharks on the basis of a superior “for and against” differential (plus-86 to the Durban team’s plus-69) although they are level on log points and also on total wins: nine each.

Ironically the dubious “reward” for the Bulls being marginally ahead, if the situation stays that way after next weekend’s round, would be a probable trip to play the seven-times champion Crusaders in Christchurch, whilst the Sharks (assuming they’ve also cracked the playoffs nod) look destined to tackle the Brumbies in Canberra.

With all due respect to the remarkable work Jake White has done to make the Brumbies so competitive this season, everyone knows which game abroad both the Bulls and Sharks would prefer if the league table ends as it should.

Of the two SA sides with the likely stiffer passages to the semis, it is the Bulls who appear to have greater problems on their hands anyway after the manner in which they were bludgeoned 32-10 by the Sharks before an ecstatic Durban faithful.

Momentum starts to play an increasingly important role at this stage of the campaign, and Bulls fans’ best hope now, it seems, is that they’ve hit a “low” over the course of several weeks and the only way is thus up.

Several weeks ago the Bulls were chugging along rather nicely, a big threat to the Stormers’ quest to top the local conference again as they started their overseas leg with respective wins in Australia against the Waratahs and Rebels.

But since May 19, when they were stopped in their tracks 16-11 by the Highlanders in Dunedin, they have largely been on a pronounced slide: the Bulls have surrendered four of their last five games, in all, a sequence interrupted only by last weekend’s high-tempo 40-24 disposal of the Cheetahs at Loftus.

Even there, certain danger signs were apparent as a commendable 40-0 advantage well into the second half lost much lustre - the Cheetahs roared back for four unanswered tries.

Again on Friday night the Bulls leaked a quartet of tries as the Sharks banked a crucial bonus point for their cherry on top of a dominating performance, with Ryan Kankowski a revelation for his overall zest, and ability to cause some havoc with the Bulls’ lineout plans - normally an area of undoubted strength.

The Bulls are generally not having too much trouble scoring tries (46) themselves, although they have now conceded 36, which is more than any other team among the current top seven on the overall table so the chalk board may need to be brought out by Frans Ludeke to examine their defensive structure and execution.

Their scrummaging ego took a bad knock in Durban, and once again in a match where the Bulls find themselves unusually back-pedalling, prominent Springboks like their captain Pierre Spies seemed to go suspiciously absent without leave.

To his credit, Spies did pull off one excellent cover tackle on a flying Timmy Whitehead, the Sharks outside centre, but it will be a concern to supporters and observers of the national team that for “80-minute effort” the big man came up pretty short at No 8 once more.

All that said, the Bulls do remain South Africa’s most successful franchise in Super Rugby with their three titles, travel rather better than they used to, and should not quite be written off as title contenders just yet.

They are bound to feel a whole lot better about life again if they thump the Lions, perhaps suddenly believing that the timing of their run is falling into place - Super Rugby is funny like that, isn’t it?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Sport24

Comments
  • Claude - 2012-07-07 12:12

    Few genuine Springboks in this Bulls team

      sean.bagley.50 - 2012-07-07 12:51

      Spies has pace,but got overshadowed last night by Kankowski.Kankowski is much more of a physical no.8 and that's what we Bok supporters wants no doubt,not just Spies' pace.I think Spies only did one great pick-up from the back of a retreating scrum and that was it as far as I remember.Bismarck du Plessis what a player,the best hooker in South Africa and the world by a country mile.Coetzee is our best loose forward on current form and Hougaard should rather play on the wing in future than at no 9.Hougaard play's better in open or broken play than he does elsewhere.

      jason.children - 2012-07-07 12:56

      Bottom line is the Bulls battle if their pack has no go forward. The Sharks hassled them at scrum time, and their defense kept people like Potgieter from getting over the advantage line! My Bulls player was JJ he had a great game. I called this result last week, its always easier to see results if you are not a supporter of either team. SFL

      Stormkaap - 2012-07-07 13:09

      Sean, that happens when you start fiddling with a players position. For about two seasons Hougaard has been playing on the wing and now he is expected to play @ scrumhalf.. Not exactly great by the coaching staff. as for what the Bulls do with Spies I dont care, as long as he now dissapears from the Springbok frame like he disappears in matches. Cannot understand how they made him captain, and allowed Van Velze and now Stander to leave.. Botha is by far a better no8 than Spies. I dont believe their season is over.

      razz.tazz.9 - 2012-07-07 13:29

      There are too many White Quota players in the Bulls team. Finish and klaar.

      shakes.tshabala - 2012-07-07 14:48

      The Bulls play so bad not even Bryce Lawrence can favour them.

      jan.scheepers.927 - 2012-07-08 17:16

      We have said many times on this forum that the Bulls kick and charge game will only serve them well against weaker sides. But it is left behind together with Heineke Meyer by the modern game. No wonder that only 24% of voters on this site think we can win the championships in August. We cannot win because of an outdated game plan and SARU must take the blame for appointing MH to hand him a lolly because he lost out before.

  • selma.botha.9 - 2012-07-07 12:27

    Mmmmmmmmmmm Did they deliberately not show up for the game?

      Skinfaxi - 2012-07-07 12:58

      I was wondering that myself. I wouldn't be surprised considering how convenient the results have been in New Zealand the last few games.

      riaan.snyman.716 - 2012-07-07 16:58

      @Selma You might have a point there! I was astounded in the lack of "skill". The Sharks played brilliant, but the Bulls were worse than I have seen them in 10 years! Well done Sharks, you deserved the win.

      brandon.styles.14 - 2012-07-08 09:53

      It was deliberate by the Bulls, They know they're in the playoffs and is only playing with the minds of the other teams. The S15 trophy will be safe in Pretoria soon.

  • skinfaxi.mordor - 2012-07-07 12:31

    On Saturday morning the Bulls 'had the edge' and now they are down and out? Now you know why sports writers don't make their living on sports betting ;)

      eddy.deepfield - 2012-07-07 15:17

      This sports writer is out of his depth. The Lions will probably take the demoralised Bulls.

  • yvettesteven.loots - 2012-07-07 12:48

    Wonder hoeveel spelers se spel gaan agteruit agv verkeerde mikpunte. Oefen ons om te bou of sterker te word. Spelers met wonderlike talent en balvaardighede verander in regte stampkarre.

  • lusciousville - 2012-07-07 12:49

    Maak d bulle almal lions!!

  • sean.bagley.50 - 2012-07-07 12:51

    Spies has pace,but got overshadowed last night by Kankowski.Kankowski is much more of a physical no.8 and that's what we Bok supporters wants no doubt,not just Spies' pace.I think Spies only did one great pick-up from the back of a retreating scrum and that was it as far as I remember.Bismarck du Plessis what a player,the best hooker in South Africa and the world by a country mile.Coetzee is our best loose forward on current form and Hougaard should rather play on the wing in future than at no 9.Hougaard play's better in open or broken play than he does elsewhere.

  • zionpercival.pay - 2012-07-07 12:57

    Jirre this is impossible. Or, from another perspective the magtige blou bulle can stand in line to make place for the Southern Kings. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahayh Still satisfied with my black jersey,

      stephen.axtell.7 - 2012-07-07 13:08

      Proudly Anti-South African All Black Supporters. All should be put on a ship and told to get the F out of here

      Bossie - 2012-07-07 13:18

      ..and Zion- youre still a fuc knut- hahahahahhahahahahaha

      les.gombart - 2012-07-07 13:26

      Don't stress it Stephen... Guys like Zion and a few others that comment on News24 sports articles are wannabe South Africans, or couldn't handle South Africa and gapped SA. They take delight in frequenting these blogs and stirring! Narrow minded little turds (were probably bullied at school and love shouting from behind the fence)

      TheBlackRaptor - 2012-07-07 13:48

      Yep, I bet you HAPPY with Bryce Lawrence too!

      john.edwards.733450 - 2012-07-07 16:49

      What black jersey is that ? the sharks ? .. they'e the only SR team wearing black

      zionpercival.pay - 2012-07-07 17:44

      Jirre bnu6t the bunch of you are putrid sportsmen and that is why your team is a fuc knutt as one of you so aptly put it sies toggie mamma se laaitjies tjank weer. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahqah

  • zionpercival.pay - 2012-07-07 13:00

    Now, for the next week the bulle suppotas can cry in their beer and blame the ref and every body else, even god but god wants nothing to do with bulle of any sort.

      les.gombart - 2012-07-07 13:27

      Gods right hand man are you? Stormers greetings

      Skwertno1 - 2012-07-07 18:04

      We know what wankers do with their right hands....

  • Provence - 2012-07-07 13:25

    Springboks like their captain Pierre Spies seemed to go suspiciously absent without leave. Enough said, please take this lady away.

  • Cassandra Eileen Olivier - 2012-07-07 13:48

    Well done Sharks : )

  • Andre - 2012-07-07 14:28

    I am a staunch Bulls supporter, but if Pierre Spies opens his next after the match press interview with another "Yes for sure...", I might burst a vein in my head!

  • ockie.barnard.9 - 2012-07-07 14:29

    Well done Sharks. Great game. 3 SA teams now in top 6. Great for SA Rugby.

  • winandov - 2012-07-07 14:43

    I hope Mr Meyer learned something last night regarding Springbok Rugby. "Don't be provincial in your choices regarding Bok Rugby". It is clearly that we could defeat the English with the better players on the field!

      john.edwards.733450 - 2012-07-07 17:01

      good heavens, that shark team IS basically the SB starting team ? Their entire front row,(3) + 2 flanks + FS + JP , that's 7 of the 15 . Then there are 5 bulls and 3 stormers what are you talking about ?

      jacques.l.roux.3 - 2012-07-07 19:53

      I think winandov is talking about overall selections RandomDude. Practically the whole Bulls team got selected into the Bok camp. The Bulls are still an ok team but they lack guys with brains. When they lost Matfield and du Preez they also lost their head.

  • andile.nokhetshe - 2012-07-07 14:45

    The Sharks were a better side on the day and the Sharks fans/supporters have every right to be happy and celebrating the victory over the Bulls but trolling in this forum is something else. Many of them though not long ago were calling for Plumtree's head. Many of you are gonna have to watch us (real supporters) hopefully learn when the Kings make their debut - we gonna be with them through thick and thin.

      shannon.moffett.9 - 2012-07-07 18:52

      Who are the Kings? I am confused!

      hugh.olphart - 2012-07-09 15:21

      I'm still not sure about Plum, think his ideas have run out and other coaches have his number. The team played like demons and swept the bulls aside, but I'm have doubts about my dear coach. Maybe cause he looks like El Bundy. Yes, that could be it.

  • Rory Neil Price - 2012-07-07 14:47

    You go guys we are proud supporters of the Springboks

  • andrew.cooks.5 - 2012-07-07 14:52

    The bulls problem from my point of view is that they play old predictable rugby without any flair. They concentrate so hard on doing the basics right that they lack some creativity. But last night they could not even do the basics at all, and the Sharks were all over them. Spies are useless at the back of the scrums & lineouts and I sometimes wonder how he made 50 springbok caps. Meisiekind actually impressed me last night of all the blue fools. Nether the less, Sharks made us proud again and if there is one thing I wish for them is consistency. They have talent, muscle & flair, but they don’t use it every single match like they did last night. SHARKS FOREVER!!!!

      LeonTheShark - 2012-07-07 18:11

      I agree andrew if only we are consistent

  • roy.wadhams.1 - 2012-07-07 15:01

    Not such a bunch of useful Pink Bulls in this team. The Sharks are a better team all round but the Stormers are still the BEST team. H.Meyer must wake up and realize that as the coach of the Springboks he must stop depending on the Bulls because they are only "good" against local teams and only lucky at times against other overseas teams on those teams bad days.

  • jacques.l.roux.3 - 2012-07-07 19:57

    The Bulls have the Lions to worry about now and I really do mean worry...

      Robsschele - 2012-07-08 11:12

      I wish someone like Charlie Chappy would tell that joke about the premium or was it super SA team again. Now just imagine: Hurricanes beat the Chiefs. The Crusaders will beat Force. Sharks beat Cheetahs. Then Bulls MUST beat Lions. But take a look at Reds. If they can beat the Waratahs and get a bonus point they will stand on 58 with 11 wins. If the Bulls get 4 points against the Lions, they will have 58 with 10 wins. So the Reds will be above the Bulls. We might get a complete reshuffle next weekend.

  • bushpigeventsbar - 2012-07-08 09:15

    FRIDAY : We saw the Bulls at their best ( Best Bulls Performance All Season)

  • jan.scheepers.927 - 2012-07-08 10:11

    We have said many times on this forum that the Bulls kick and charge game will only serve them well against weaker sides. But it is left behind together with Heineke Meyer by the modern game. No wonder that only 24% of voters on this site think we can win the championships in August. We cannot win because of an outdated game plan and SARU must take the blame for appointing MH as a lolly because he lost out before.

      Craven Luyt - 2012-07-08 20:36

      If my memory serves me correct the Boks have not lost with HM as coach? Craven.

  • rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-07-08 15:23

    Tussen Ludeke en Spies is daar NET een pad vir die Bulle - ONDERTOE!

  • chrono.man.7 - 2012-07-09 09:55

    At least Victor Matfield was worth a few laughs again. I quote: (1) The Sharks defence were outstanding; (2) Coming into the game you would have thought the Bulls would have the overhand in the game...... Thanks Vic for softening the blow.

  • justin.brink.94 - 2012-07-09 11:34

    The Bulls need to adapt their gameplan. I feel that they are playing Francois Hougaard the same way that Fourie Du Preez played. He was a master at kicking up and unders, and placing kicks in gaps. Francois Hougaard has other strengths, and probably his biggest strength is his elusive running. It is the coache's job to tell him to not kick the ball, and rather make him run around Morne Steyn, and receive a back pass, or make him do not expected blind side breaks. The team needs to have moves that brings his strenghts to the fore. Make a couple of interesting moves, based on his running, and also coach him to look to both sides, and use creativity to catch the other team unawares with these moves. Way too many balls got kicked straight into the Shark's hands. At both provincial, and national level this will benefit the team he plays for greatly. I see him more as a Joost vd Westhuizen, or a Will Genia type scrummie. You cannot force the old gameplan onto him. It is the coache's job to create a unexpected gameplan that will work to his strengths, and it will definitely greatly benefit the whole team. The old gameplan just doesn't work with new players that have different strengths and weaknesses. Why is it that me as a supporter can see this so clearly, but week in, and week out, the player tries to do the same things, and make the same mistakes?? Surely, that is what coaches are for?

      hugh.olphart - 2012-07-09 15:28

      I prefer him on the wing.

      abraham.koopman - 2012-07-09 20:33

      I fully agree with you justin.

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