Conference system hurts Bulls
Pretoria - Despite having a seven-point advantage over the Brumbies after Saturday's 36-34 victory over the Canberra team, the Bulls were still a place adrift on the overall Super Rugby log.
This demonstrates the deformed conference system employed by SANZAR in the premier Southern Hemisphere provincial rugby competition, where the top team from each country gets an automatic entry into the top three on the overall log, irrespective of its total log points.
The match, nonetheless, came down to the wire as the Brumbies launched a late assault to give the Bulls a good run for their money in their Super Rugby encounter at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls may have won ugly, but coach Frans Ludeke said they would take the four points ahead of their crucial Australasia tour in a week's time.
"This is a win and is vital, especially since this competition is tight," said Ludeke.
"Playing at home, we had to do what we had to do."
Ludeke, however, was not satisfied with his side's defence that let in two soft tries in the second half, and three at the death, to keep the Brumbies in the match.
"The last 10 minutes we felt that we were not good enough as we gave them some easy tries. It was tight game squeeze at the end, but we kept them out."
The hosts received a "get out of jail" card from flyhalf Morne Steyn, who finally produced the kind of kicking performance he is famous for, with the Springbok accountable for 26 of the outfit's points.
Steyn has been struggling with his usually imposing kicking boot recently, but redeemed himself with seven penalties, a drop goal and a conversion.
"That is why we believed in him and that he could bounce back. It showed the character of Morne," said Ludeke.
"Credit to him and (kicking coach) Vlok Cilliers, they worked hard to sort the technical issue out."
Ludeke lauded the Brumbies, having given his side an uphill battle in the match.
"Credit to them. They are a good side," said Ludeke.
"They were leading the Australian conference before this weekend and you could see it tonight (Saturday) that they are a quality side. They are well coached and they took the opportunities."
At the 60 minute mark, the Bulls were comfortably on their way to record an emphatic victory as they enjoyed a 20-point lead. The tourists, however, struck back with a vengeance in the final 10 minutes to score three tries and get within two points of the Bulls.
The hosts counted themselves lucky as time ran out for coach Jake White's men, who scored their last try in the 80th minute. Bulls skipper Pierre Spies said while the Brumbies came too close for comfort, they would happily take the result before their coming tour.
"I think we did enough to get the lead and may have taken the foot off the pedal," Spies said.
"The Brumbies kept on attacking and held on to the pretty good. What is important is that you win, and today was just another example of that.
"I thing we've also been going five games in a row, so it is a good win for us."
White conceded the Bulls deserved to win as his side allowed them to open a big gap before scraping back.
"At one stage we were 30 points to 13 down and we let it slip, but at the same time we never had ball for long periods of time," said White.
"The players in the change room were a little bit down, which proves how deflated they were after the result. A lot of people might have been happy with two points and scoring five tries."