Many positives for Bulls
Johannesburg - Bulls assistant coach Johann van Graan says his team's 16-12 win over the Kings in a warm-up match in Port Elizabeth on Saturday produced many highlights for them to ponder over before the start of the Super Rugby season.
The Pretoria-based team fielded an inexperienced side but Van Graan said at least seven players would make the final cut when their campaign kicks off on February 24 against the Sharks in Pretoria.
"There were many highlights in the match where we got to test our depth," Van Graan said.
He said he was especially encouraged by the team's lineouts while the team also got a glimpse of how the breakdowns would be interpreted by the referees.
"The lineouts played a major factor for us with Gerrit-Jan van Velze, CJ Stander and Wilhelm Steenkamp deserving special mention," he said.
"Wilhelm took three opposition balls, five metres from his own goalline which was crucial in the context of the game."
The Bulls led the encounter by 13-0 after 15 minutes of play with flyhalf Louis Fouché opening the scores with a drop-goal while Jean Cook and Sampie Mastriet scored a try each.
The visitors could only muster another three points through a Fouché penalty conversion, even though they dominated proceedings in the first half.
The Kings opened their scoring close the end of the first half with Mzwandile Stick touching down and Louis Strydom converting.
The first scrum of the match only came in the 54th minute with referee Stuart Berry setting only four scrums in total.
Van Graan heaped praise on Berry for the manner in which he managed the match.
"Scrums will be a big focus this season and we are also happy about the breakdowns, where we got a taste of what the referees will focus on this season. I must give Stuart Berry credit for the way he handled it," said Van Graan.
The Kings outscored the Bulls in the second half with Luke Watson adding five points to the total.
Van Graan said the Kings deserved praise for their fight-back efforts and for giving the Bulls a tough battle.
The Bulls will play the Cheetahs next Saturday in their warm-up match in Polokwane.
Van Graan said he expected another crunch match against the Cheetahs especially after their 22-14 victory over the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
He said he expected an improved Cheetahs side from the one that finished 11th on last year's Super Rugby log.