Bulls issue conference warning

2012-02-11 22:16

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - It might be exaggerating to say all of Super Rugby will be trembling just yet, but rivals in the South African conference, at the very least, have been served some notice of the Bulls’ 2012 aspirations.

The Loftus-based side overpowered the Cheetahs by a striking margin of 23 points (39-16) in their friendly encounter at Polokwane on Saturday, a signal two weeks out from full hostilities that they ought to be a tough nut to crack in the competition and particularly the derby pool.

Inevitably some observers, and probably even a few of their faithful fans, probably assume that a period of rebuilding will be required by the franchise, following the departure en masse of so many iconic Pretoria figures in 2011.

By extension, that implies some months or even a campaign or two of under-performance by a team well used to lifting the tournament spoils.

But while pre-season exercises can be less than accurate barometers, the Bulls demonstrated at Peter Mokaba Stadium that even if their trademark conservative, highly physical formula for attempted success is unlikely to alter to any great extent this year, they will not be easy-beats for anybody.

Why, some of their more optimistic supporters may even be starting to just chew on the possibility that the class of 2012, more youthful in several departments, goes one better than last season by making the playoffs rather than being narrowly squeezed out.

In mid-June last year, the Sharks went to Loftus for an effective eliminator, and won a nail-biter 26-23 to progress, simultaneously scuppering the Bulls’ chances of achieving a hat-trick of titles.

It is the very same opponents who go to Pretoria in just under a fortnight to open SA conference activity, and even if the occasion hardly needs any extra spice, the Bulls’ thumping victory against the Cheetahs on Saturday suggests we’re in for an early cracker under floodlights - and perhaps even a key marker for the long slog ahead?

People forget that the Bulls won’t be suddenly tossing into the fray a bunch of kids just out of nappies, as it were, to compensate for the loss of Messrs Matfield, Botha, Steenkamp, Rossouw and company.

Several of the new generation will be rather more streetwise than that, and it was demonstrated at Polokwane by Dean Greyling, a comfortingly ferocious ball-carrier and mauler to take regular occupancy of the loosehead prop’s jersey, and Juandré Kruger, who confirmed his budding lineout prowess and thus suitability to inherit the No 5 shirt from the peerless Matfield.

I fancy also that, even with Pierre Spies already known to be captain for the season and thus “safe” for the No 8 slot, a place in the loose trio will simply have to be found - blindside flank, you’d think - for the 21-year-old who stood in for him in the friendly, CJ Stander.

Stander was one of the better Bulls presences in their difficult Currie Cup last year, and seems to be only getting better as a forceful element in the team’s still evident knock-‘em-back-hard philosophy up front.

He did make one bad, unforced handling error against the Cheetahs, on a day when both teams lapsed consistently in the basic ball-skills department: here’s hoping early-season rust was more the reason than the still widely-held belief that South Africa lags behind their other SANZAR partners in this area.

The Bulls look as though they will remain well less than pioneers for unpredictability in their play, which will again revolve around the pack creating a fairly unsubtle but effective bridgehead and Morné Steyn remaining a massively influential figure at flyhalf both with his tactical kicking and pot-shots off the tee - in this match he showed that his metronomic ability at landing the ball between the posts is undimmed.

For long periods of play, both sets of three-quarters just couldn’t get out of the blocks for inspiring hand-to-hand play, which is especially unusual for the Cheetahs.
But as visiting hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss admitted afterwards: “Credit to the Bulls; they disrupted us totally (for possession) ... our defence was good but we’re an attacking team.”

And hats off to the Bulls for at least manufacturing one genuinely crowd-pleasing, long-range try a minute or two before the final whistle, rounded off by a flying Zane Kirchner after a slippery bit of skill and deception by admirably versatile Francois Hougaard.

Several top overseas Super Rugby teams watching the Polokwane game - if they got the chance - wouldn’t necessarily be quaking about entertaining the new-look Bulls in their own terrain, although they will probably be only too aware that going to Loftus ought to be as taxing an occasion as ever.

I would suggest, though, that South African rivals, mindful of how tight, uncompromising and violent local derbies can be, may just be fearing the Bulls’ “regroup” is happening at a greater rate of knots than they anticipated ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • Blou-Daan - 2012-02-11 22:26

    Bulls issue conference warning......!!!!! Ek het seker al in Desember daai warning ge-issue.....!!!!! Maar toe wou niemand vir my en "Bulldozer" glo nie....!!!!!!

      jack.oosthuysen - 2012-02-11 23:05

      Be warned.The Bulls may not win 100 pc of their games but will be winning the last closing matches to clinch the title AGAIN.

      Rene - 2012-02-11 23:11

      @Ekfeugo, there's plenty to get excited about, the future looks great for the Bulls. PS: like your name!!

      jack.oosthuysen - 2012-02-11 23:37

      Just loved the way the Titans were winning the Supersport series.

      Pierre - 2012-02-12 00:52

      “All of Super Rugby will be trembling” Hahaha, good one.

      Dirk - 2012-02-12 04:45

      Early days. When the Bulls play the Cheetahs in the FS, they(Cheetahs) should play them in Brandfort or Smithfield.

      Kevin - 2012-02-12 07:31

      Bulls will be shown on the history channel again this year

      Rene - 2012-02-12 09:25

      @Kevin, to a certain degree, you are correct!! The BULLS are the ONLY team in SA that makes History. To my knowledge only 'news worthy' events are normally featuring on the History Channel. Well done Kevin!!!!

      Jason - 2012-02-12 09:40

      And not one of you discusses the young Stander or whether Spies will ultimately deserve a permanent No8 spot. Or if the scrums are working well? The new break down rules the refs are blowing............All you lot do is blow your own horns and insult each other. Try discussing and debating the games!

  • Bootman - 2012-02-11 22:34

    Flash in the pan........

      Blou-Daan - 2012-02-11 22:39

      @Bootman So is that what you papsakke call a well prepared and well coached team?

      Alan - 2012-02-12 08:37

      he means to say fiskop in die pan thats what they eat down there and they will get their lesson too like the rest will

  • Bootman - 2012-02-11 22:37

    ........pity this team will be playing Vodacom cup next year.

      jean.rossouwsa - 2012-02-11 23:01

      Julle sal ook nooit leer nie, SHAME.

      Alan - 2012-02-12 08:39

      where does this fool get his information ?? !!!!

      Bootman - 2012-02-12 11:31

      Alan they will end last in the SA conference and be kicked out of super rugby. I dont know whats more embarrassing........playing Vodacom cup or being replaced by the Kings

      Gert - 2012-02-12 12:21

      Bootman I just wonder which SA team was kicked out of the Super 12 in 1997... And that was for real. The Bulls being kicked out of the 2013 comp is just your WP whet dream. Its not gonna happen. At least we beat the Cheetahs with both our B-team and A-team.

      Christie - 2012-02-12 12:30

      Bootman, jou van Malema? Daai narre wat jy ondersteun is op hulle laaste bene. Net afdraende van hier af, hou dop. Viva die Blou!

      Bootman - 2012-02-12 23:25

      I meant the Stormers will be playing Vodacom. They could not win a single cup in the history of Super rugby.

  • Matthew Patrick - 2012-02-11 23:22


      Blou-Daan - 2012-02-11 23:27

      @Matthew Patrick I hope the Lions keep there form...!!!

  • kevin.rack - 2012-02-12 00:51

    13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter finally they two good allround centres Before we could not expect not much except bash from the Bulls backline but now this is a well balance team. Well done Bulls for buying well and investing in the future by playing really young stars.

      hoffjw - 2012-02-12 09:58

      sadie was blowing cold....not the same youngster that left the cape.....

      Jason - 2012-02-12 10:49

      Give Sadie a chance, im sure he will do well with the bulls. Im a Stormer and I think the Bulls made a good buy. Bulls Culture is very different to WP culture and when he settles down and gets a few games under his belt im sure he will do well.

  • Will - 2012-02-12 01:26

    It should read "Bulls issue warning that they will play boring 10-man rugby."

      Dawie - 2012-02-12 02:45

      @ Will ( I love myself) Irrelevant what rugby you play if you win the cup year in and year out

      Alan - 2012-02-12 08:42

      this fool and bootman are buddies you can see by the sour grape comments !!!!!!

      Bootman - 2012-02-12 11:34

      You cant hide from the truth mullet man.

      Bulldozer - 2012-02-12 12:46

      Will, where did you get the cap with the flap facing backwards?

      Dawie - 2012-02-12 17:56

      @Bull Ja nee kyk, ek loop eerder kaal in die openbaar rond as wat ek my hoedjie so dra. So pyl so pyl ek lag myself in 'n respiratoriese alkalose in man!

      Bootman - 2012-02-13 02:24

      @Will Is jy 'n mof?

  • Dawie - 2012-02-12 01:26

    Walk in the park for the Bulls man! Loshande die beste provinsiale span in wereldrugby

  • Kevin - 2012-02-12 07:29

    Sharks by 30

  • Kevin - 2012-02-12 07:29

    Sharks by 30

  • Robsschele - 2012-02-12 09:56

    It's what I said before. The Cheetahs are always highly motivated against either the Sharks or the Stormers and then they don't pitch for their next game. The Bulls must not read a lot in this match, same as the Stormers that has beaten the Kings by a big margin, the same Kings that have just lost against the Bulls last week.

  • Nicholas - 2012-02-12 11:07

    Most of the stalwarts who have left the side had past their sell by dates anyway ....time for new young blood in the side, look forward to it! I wish that word "conference" would also leave for greener pastures.

  • Johan - 2012-02-12 11:25

    Rob Howing - moet asb nie namens die Bulls praat nie

  • Bootman - 2012-02-12 23:24

    Hi All, Just wanted to say I woke up, all sober now! Please ignore my previous intoxicated posts. Eventhough I support WP/Stormers, I have to admit they can't even start to compare with the mighty Bulls. Who can argue with 3 Supercups, 4.5 CC and 3 Vodacoms in the last decade versus ZERO. And the mighty Bulls look like they'll do it again this year I thinking of becoming a Bull, I also want to get a little pleasure out of my rugby

      Shistirrer - 2012-02-13 10:34

      @Fake Bootman - the joke's on you, Bulls trailer trash! The REAL Bootman changed his profile pic, your despicable fraud is sticking out like a sore thumb.

  • Jenny - 2012-02-13 09:04

    There was 2 games wasnt there

  • Shistirrer - 2012-02-13 10:22

    OK, now I'm officially confused by the Bulls supporters. Last year, when the Bulls lost against the Kings, and also this year when they narrowly scraped through against the same team, we were made to believe "it counts for nothing, it's just a pre-season warm up game". Now, when you beat the Cheetahs in a pre-season warm up game, you are "issuing a conference warning" - i.e. the game actually matters. By implication you lied about the two games against the Kings and they also mattered. Right? Or, if you stick by your story and the Kings games didn't matter, nothing should be read into the win over the Cheetahs. Which version of the truth do you prefer?

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