Bulls show some growing pains

2012-03-11 12:28

Cape Town - Three times the champions of Super Rugby, the rebuilding Bulls were served a reminder this weekend that 2012 will be no cakewalk as they surrendered their unbeaten record in a first encounter with overseas opposition.

At least one neutral South African, the Springbok flank legend Rob Louw, noted in a tweet following their 29-23 Loftus reverse to the Blues on Saturday that the experience and calmness brought by such characters as Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez was clearly missed on a night when the Bulls’ composure and patience badly let them down more than anything else.

He felt that this might become even more apparent when the Bulls tackle their overseas leg, although that is a little further up the drag and they have a bye weekend now to chew on their first loss in three starts.

Just a little worryingly, considering that these are still early days indeed, South African teams have already lost at home to two New Zealand opponents; this result follows the Lions falling in Johannesburg a week earlier 30-28 to the Hurricanes.

Now the only remaining unbeaten SA outfit, the Stormers can at least claim to have knocked over the Hurricanes themselves earlier at Newlands, but it was a ragged, mostly forgettable old affair.

But with the help of their automatic four bye points this weekend, the Capetonians do sit third on the overall table behind the Reds and Highlanders (each with three wins from three), and with a game in hand on them.

And they will not necessarily feel too overawed by entertaining Keven Mealamu and company on Friday night, after an ordinary encounter on the Highveld where the Blues simply made full use of opportunities that came their way -- even as the Bulls often held an edge in both possession and territory.

Certainly the discipline of the Stormers, who generally preserve their own ball more jealously than the Bulls did in this setback and have renowned defensive organisation, ought to mean that the Blues are “gifted” fewer points than they got at Loftus.

Still, this was a mini-wakeup call for the Bulls -- and perhaps also the domestic cause as a whole -- as they suffered a pronounced turnaround from their crushing victory against derby rivals the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein just a week earlier.

It demonstrated that the former champions, for all their budding new areas of potential, will experience some growing pains along the road to achieving their goal of a sparkling fresh chapter after the exit of so many influential figures last year.

On the positive side, coach Frans Ludeke will take some comfort from his charges showing last-ditch resolve to salvage a losing bonus point and, simultaneously, showing some genuinely exciting thrust out wide as they snapped out of their prior inability to get consistently over the gain-line.

Also, usually highly influential flyhalf Morne Steyn is unlikely to have such an erratic game in a while, both from a place-kicking and general-play perspective; he was at least partly responsible for the soft concession of the first try to the Blues, which got their tails up in a big way.

Meanwhile in Durban there was cause for overdue good cheer among Sharks supporters because they finally kick-started their own campaign with a bonus-point win against the Lions – remember that five-point hauls don’t exactly grow on trees in local derbies.

Whilst the Lions were beset with injury-enforced disruptions in the week’s lead-up to the game and then again much closer to kick-off on Saturday, and played with commendable courage under the circumstances, there was also enough evidence to suggest that the Durban giant is indeed beginning to stir.

The return of Willem Alberts made a big difference to their forward grunt, where Bismarck du Plessis similarly produced a game of great endeavour and awesome physicality, and with Tim Whitehead showing some welcome deft touches at No 12 just outside the cerebral Pat Lambie, the Sharks could be on the “up” just in time for Saturday’s big visit of the defending champion Reds.

The Cheetahs, of course, are likely to be livid with the performance of referee Keith Brown in their gut-wrenching, last-kick reverse to Jake White’s Brumbies in Canberra, not without reason suspecting that there is a new “Bryce” on the officialdom block!

*This week’s fixtures (home teams first, all kick-offs in SA times):

Friday: Chiefs v Brumbies, 08:35; Stormers v Blues, 19:10. Saturday: Hurricanes v Highlanders, 08:35; Waratahs v Force, 10:40; Sharks v Reds, 17:05. Sunday: Rebels v Cheetahs, 07:10. Byes: Bulls, Lions, Crusaders.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • Michael - 2012-03-11 12:30

    what a great saturday, Sharks win with a bonus point and Bulls lose. Never seen Steyn kick so badly!!!

      jordaanjean - 2012-03-11 18:16

      so you find joy in another South African team losing.. douche..

      Michael - 2012-03-11 20:11

      Of course i do, why would i support the Bulls when a win for them is bad for the Sharks...douche

  • Sean - 2012-03-11 13:11

    Was what happened yesterday at Loftus a taste of what's to come in the TriNations/Four Nations later this year when the Boks play against the All Blacks?Hope not! Some folks were boasting here on News24 about making the Springbok Team all come from THE BULLS TEAM.So what now then with that humble pie and bitter pill for the Bulls,how is that gonna work if you get hammered by a New Zealand outfit like the Blues. Lets see which SA super 15 team actually beats a New Zealand team home or away first before you start your gloating.

      Bomb - 2012-03-11 14:39

      Well you know how its going to work. Heyneke will definitely favour Bulls players, even though he says he wont. Its clear that the bulk of Springbok players at THIS stage should come from the Stormers and Sharks based on results and performance. I just hope he starts pulling in some new blood to build for the future.

      Bielie - 2012-03-11 22:24

      Bomb, don't you think it's a bit early to start accusing Meyer of bias? How about you wait until the first team he selects has actually played a test? Just a thought. Use it, don't use it...

      Nzbro - 2012-03-12 09:22

      agree with you there sean. Have you seen the new talent that has come to the fore in the nz teams lately especially in the No 10 position and No 9. Its gong to be difficult to choose who should get a AB jersey come july with so many to choose from now. NZ teams are doing very well indeed just on their individual player performances

      Bomb - 2012-03-12 10:20

      Bielie.........hy doen dit klaar met al sy support staf. Maar ja, kom ons wag en sien, ek glo hy gaan die patroon gebruik wat hy by die Bulls afgerig het, en daarvoor sal hy seker die bulls die kern van sy span wil maak............use it, dont use it, ko's kyk.

      nyameko.nondzube - 2012-03-12 13:55

      Stormers had given the Hurricanes a thumping in the 1st round.. Are they not a Kiwi side??

  • Claude - 2012-03-11 13:29

    Re: The comment about the Referee in the Cheetahs game - I can't comment as I did not see the game but it is about time that all Referees got payed a basic minimum and the balance was an allotment made by an independent panel who watch and review the game.

  • Gerald - 2012-03-11 14:46

    Sorry to say but the Bulls were totally out-muscled by the Blues who appeared stronger, fitter and more passionate for the win.

  • Saffa - 2012-03-11 15:47

    Growing pains wasn't the problem, playing against 16 was.

      Henno - 2012-03-11 17:34

      Vervelig, voorspelbaar en eentonig - gaan staan in die hoek asseblief.

      Johan - 2012-03-11 17:50

      Saffa - So now that the Bulls loose a game you blame the Ref...Next lost coming you can maybe consider blaming the TV referee or so, eventually you will run out of excuses. Wonder what you said when the Sharks were beaten by the Bulls the claim there first title in the 84 minute of the final? Or what happend when the Bulls scored a try against the Crusaders from a forward pass after the final whistle went to eventuall beat the Stormers in the final Grow up!!!

      Saffa - 2012-03-11 18:12

      @Johan All I'd like to say to you my friend: Bulls 3 Super trophies vs Stormers ZERO! Shame

      Saffa - 2012-03-11 18:23

      @Henno Bwa Ha Ha Ha, ou Rambo, foeitog, jy kry duidelik nie baie aandag nie. En vat bietjie raad van iemand wat 8 keer die hoeveelheid pitte as jy in sy kop het, 'n fototjie met 'n belaglike pyl en boog laat mense skater van die lag jou idioot. Haal maar af

      Johan - 2012-03-11 19:18

      @Saffa - My vriende is almal gekwalifiseerde persone met iets tussen die ore, so ongelukkig diskwalifiseer jy jouself daar en moet jy my dus asb nie as jou "friend" aanspreek nie. As ek so na jou kommentaar kyk kan jy waarskynlik net tot 3 tel. Op hierdie huidige staduim is daar absoluut niks in julle kas nie en gaan daar ook nie gou weer iets wees nie....Ons leef in die hede en sover ek weet is die Reds die huidige kampioene... Jy moet maar versigtig wees want ou Rambo kan nogal daai pyl en boog gebruik...Weet net nie waar hy sal moet mik om jou brein vir jou weg te skiet nie, want hy sit definitief nie in jou kop nie......Jy is nie dalk die blou bul wat gisteraand die Blues kaptein met 'n 2lt coke bottel probeer gooi het nie?

      Johan - 2012-03-11 19:25

      @ Saffa O en amper vergeet ek - die pitte waarna jy verwys is iets wat jy plant en dan kom daar 'n plantjie op, in jou geval waarksynlik onkruid. Die meer ingeligte ouens gebruik die term breinsel...

      Saffa - 2012-03-11 19:33

      @Johan Ai, dat mens soveel snot kan tik met jou een vingertjie op 'n slag, hoe lank het dit jou gevat? Hoeveel keer het die Stormers al die Super gewen? (net die antwoord asseblief Einstein, geen opstelletjies. Om dit vir jou makliker te maak: Is dit: a) Nul b) geen c) Zero d) Al bogenoemde

      Saffa - 2012-03-11 19:38

      @Johan En bwa ha ha, jy reken intelligente ouens gebruik "breinsel" wow, dis impressive. Wat van neuron? Dis soos om te se intelligente mense kan tot by 10 tel. Of die Stormers is SA se mees suksesvolle Superrugby span

      Pomene - 2012-03-11 22:13

      Die Kannedoos is terug, net in ander gewaad - assssssssssssssssssshhoooooooollllllleeeeeeeee!!!!

      Bielie - 2012-03-11 22:28

      Mens spel dit S-A-F-F-A, maar jy spreek dit uit P-O-E-P-H-O-L.

      Saffa - 2012-03-12 00:18

      @Bielie Wow, what a chirp, die intelligensie vloei uit jou!

      Nzbro - 2012-03-12 09:29

      hello again saffa ! did you enjoy your summer? I see you singing that same ole tune again "playing against 16 was." you may have forgotten the blues had one man sin binned for 10 minutes & still the Blues truimphed! Accept it, the bulls lost fair & square and before you think otherwise I have to say that Im a crusader fan & my team is not doing well at all so good on the blues for beating the Bulls in their own backyard.Thats gotta hurt aye!

  • Kevin - 2012-03-11 16:19

    When you don't have mark lawrence blowing in your favour you have to actually play Rugby. As far as I am concerned the Bulls won two games they never deserved to win . And to think lawrence is still reffing

      Rene - 2012-03-11 17:10

      @Kevin, what an idiotic thing to say! You're a sad and bitter character! ML did not ref any of the Bulls games this year, Kaplan tried his utmost to keep the Sharks in the 1st game. Get a pair of glasses, your eye sight is on the blink!

  • Johan - 2012-03-11 17:24

    Gee man, they still scored 3 tries to 2 and they lost because Morne for once lost his plot! Were you watching the game or just relishing the Bulls that the Bulls lost!

      Rene - 2012-03-11 17:38

      @Johan, ek dink meeste non-Bull ondersteuners put meer vreugde uit wanneer die Bulle verloor as wanneer hulle eie spanne wen. Funny that - hoe meer hulle die Bulle afkraak, hoe lekkerder lag ek. Anyway, daar is baie werk wat gedoen moet word, maar in aggenome dat ons span 'n slegte dag belewe het en nog steeds 'n ou bonus puntjie gekry het, besides die tipe situasies is nodig, hulle moet leer as 'n span hoe om 'n verloor te hanteer. Dit bou karakter - daar is 'n paar jong outjies en daar is BAIE meer positiewes as negatiewes.

      Johan - 2012-03-11 17:54

      @ Rene - Gaan lees bietjie die kommetaar nadat Allister Coetzee 4 jong belowende WP sterre kontrakte aangebied het....Almal eentonige, nukseggende snert uitlatings van breindood blou bul ondesrteuners wat niks met Stormers rugby te doen het nie...Julle moet maar bietjie kan vat as julle wil uitdeel!!!!!

      Rene - 2012-03-11 18:06

      @Johan, dit is so! Daar is altyd 3 or 4 persone wat verskillende spanne ondersteun (nie net Bulle nie) wat die klits kwyt is, van dit is snaaks, van dit is bloot 'rubbish' - ek lag maar net, en of 'skip' dit. Elke sport het maar 'daardie' ondersteuners. Lekker dag!

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