Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretoria - If the Bulls ever were to miss Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn, their tactical kicking performance this past weekend showed just how much of a void the Bok pivot has left them.
According to the supersport.com website, usually masters of the kick and chase, the Bulls looked both aimless and poor in their execution of the kicking game plan, and played right into the Sharks’ hands this past weekend.
The fact that the Bulls over-relied on the kicking game was evident from the statistical analysis this past weekend, done by governing body Sanzar, which has a few stark reminders of just how much the Bulls were kicking the ball.
Ironically, the Sharks kicked just as much in the match - plagued by humidity and slippery conditions - but took their chances when it counted and their kicks weren’t nearly as aimless as the Bulls.
SANZAR’s stats have Bulls Louis Fouche, Francois Hougaard, Jurgen Visser and Handre Pollard were four of the top 10 kickers by quantity in a round that featured only two matches, but did little to shake the Bulls’ foundations of being a one-dimensional team.
Add to that the paltry stat that outside backs JJ Engelbrecht, Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson ran a combined 28 metres with the ball in the entire game, it shows just how little the ball went down the line during the Bulls game plan.
While much has been made of Marcell Coetzee’s impressive play on the night, one of the Bulls few shining lights was 20-year old Jacques du Plessis, who made no less than 16 tackles on the night, missed one and made two turnovers – certainly not bad for a player making his Super Rugby debut.
The other end of the scale was the disappointing game of Callie Visagie, who made just one tackle in his 60 minutes on the field and compounded this with a throw-in that was not straight when the Bulls desperately needed to score and were on attack on the Sharks tryline.
The Sharks backs had a field day, with Paul Jordaan running 99 metres and Lwazi Mvovo 61 metres respectively, but their contributions were not as good as Lions player Chrysander Botha, who according to the stats did a massive 129 metres with ball in hand with Bok Willie le Roux just behind him with 126 metres. Jordaan made four clean breaks - testament to the angles he was running and Pat Lambie’s influence on his play.
The Cheetahs on defence were dominant in the stats with four of their team in the top five for tackle counts on the weekend.
Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Francois Venter and Coenie Oosthuizen put in an impressive 61 tackles between them on the evening, stopping the Lions from crossing their tryline.