Pretoria - A combination of individual “soft moments” by several Bulls players is hurting the team and threatening to derail its Australasian tour.
That is clear from an analysis of statistics from the recent game against the Crusaders, where the Bulls were beaten 27-0.
Statistics, as supplied by www.ruggastats.co.za
, suggests that the Bulls fared a lot better than the scoreboard suggested and that mistakes at crucial periods cost the Bulls the game.
That places the mistakes of individuals in perspective.
For example: Nobody made more tackles than Pierre Spies.
The 19 tackles by the beleaguered Bulls No 8 was more than any other player on the field and while that should be a tick behind his name, it’s the four that he missed that stays in the memory - especially because he could not keep Israel Dagg away from the try-line with one of those missed tackles.
The same applies to the attack, where Spies handled 16 times, carried 12 times and gained 38 metres. The fact that Spies knocked the on ball twice - both occasions with the Bulls on attack - is once again what remains in the memory.
The same applies for Wynand Olivier.
The blond centre missed two of his 11 tackles (against the 3 out of 5 by Francois Hougaard and Morné Steyn’s 4 out of 10), but the crucial one was when Sonny Bill Williams ran past him and scored 50 metres on.
It’s the same story on attack. Olivier carried the ball eight times, broke the line on three occasions and gained nearly 98 metres, but knocked the ball on twice in succession to undo his good work.
Interestingly, Sonny Bill Williams also knocked the ball twice and Robbie Fruean four times, but Oliver’s mistakes are considered more serious.
The Bulls missed 20 out of 154 tackles (13%) against the Crusaders’ 22 out of 138 (8%) and that was ultimately the difference between the teams.
The complaint that senior players are not pulling their weight appears to be partly true.
The Bulls’ most senior players - Victor Matfield (116 games) and Danie Rossouw (107 games) - made five and four handling errors respectively - the most in the team.
Jaco Pretorius, who was hardly seen, should probably consider himself satisfied with his statistics. The centre made 16 successful tackles and did not miss one, won turnover possession twice and crossed the advantage line four times. However, his good performance was spoiled by two handling errors.
Even so, the Bulls made 27 handling errors against the 34 of the Crusaders.
The home side also kicked more than the Bulls (21 against 13), but where the Crusaders only made 16 unforced errors, the Bulls’ figure stood at 34. And that is where the major difference lies.
The Bulls are being hurt by unnecessary errors. If they can sort that out on the training field - a promise made to supporters by Matfield - there may be a surprise in store for the Reds.