Pretoria - A dejected Bulls coach Frans Ludeke tried desperately to find positives following his team's last-minute defeat to the Brumbies in their Super Rugby semi-final on Saturday evening.
"I thought we had a very good season, winning nine matches in a row and playing in a home semi any team will take that at the beginning of the season," Ludeke said.
"At 79 minutes we were on our way to the final, so I am proud of the boys and the way Dewald (Potgieter) came in as captain, just stepping up every week.
"There were a lot of players that came through -- 13 guys that played in their first Super Rugby semi-final and it just shows that a lot of things are coming together again."
The Bulls were for the most part of the match suffocated by the Brumbies at the set pieces, while the Australians also managed to pin the men in blue down in their own half.
The hosts managed to claw their way back into the match and took a slender one-point lead for the first time in the match in the 60th minute through a Morne Steyn penalty conversion.
The match would, however, be remembered for Potgieter’s decision to opt for line-out drives on three occasions instead of extending their lead through three kickable penalties.
Only after the third rejection did Potgieter buckle under the pressure from an irate Loftus Versfeld crowd and Ludeke’s orders to go for the three-pointer.
With four minutes left in the match Steyn’s penalty conversion gave his side a four-point lead before the Brumbies scored at the death to secure a place in the Super Rugby final against the Chiefs in Hamilton next year.
Potgieter remained defiant after the match and insisted that he would have made the same calls if he had to play the match over again.
The Bulls captain said the only regret he had was that he did not stick to his guns and believed his decisions contained the Brumbies in their half.
"We actually managed to keep them down there for 10 minutes and the only thing I maybe regret is actually going for poles with five minutes to go, if you make the decision to keep them in their half I should have backed the call," Potgieter said.
"That was also part of the reason why I went that route. We were very complacent in the first 15 to 20 minutes and we were behind by so many points by so many minutes."
Ludeke said the Brumbies stifled his team through dominant set-piece play but his charges did well to fight their way back into the match.
"It was a game of two halves and in the first half the Brumbies were on top with their set piece work, applied the pressure and they got the points on the board," he said.
"In the second half we worked our way back into the game and I am proud of the players for coming back that way.
"At the end of the day you need a solid set piece and it was close there in the end and credit to the Brumbies."