Bulls go into a bye smiling all the way
Brenden Nel - SuperSport.com
Pretoria - Bulls coach Pote Human may not have said it, but with a mountain to climb at the start of the Super Rugby competition, few would have given his side a chance of topping the South African conference after a tough four weeks.
But going into their first bye of the season Human's side has beaten all three other SA franchises comprehensively, has created momentum at Loftus Versfeld again and has the Bulls looking forward to their next four games with excitement and glee rather than with trepidation, as has been the case in the past few years.
The solitary loss against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires is the only blip on the Bulls radar at the moment, but in South Africa, and against local opposition, they have been clinical in their demolition of other teams. A 40-3 win over the Stormers, a 30-12 win over the Lions was followed up on Saturday with a comprehensive 37-14 win over the Sharks and smiles all around Loftus at the moment.
Human told SuperSport.com he was overjoyed at the response of the players, and admitted this had been a "dream start" for his team and praised his captain Handre Pollard for steering the team in the right direction.
"Today (Saturday) we started well, we had a clinical, excellent game in the first half and we let them back in the second half. I felt that sometimes we were panicking. But we need that too, because it made us fight it out and score the last try to seal it.
"But it is something we can work on but I'm very satisfied with, the three wins against South African franchises.
"It is a dream start for us, but unfortunately against the Jaguares we couldn't get one over them there, but we will take a break now and come back and work for the next four.
"There Polly (Pollard) takes the lead and he decided what to do, so an excellent performance by Polly once again."
Human praised the character of his team, and said they were building on a very good basis at the moment.
"I have a lot of confidence in the team, there are guys who came through under John Mitchell last year. We are just building on and have changed a few small things. We are on the right path and I have confidence in this team that they can do well this year.
"There is a lot of character here. We stopped them with their lineouts on the tryline (and) when we turned over the ball we started to play and then Specman went to score. The guys have character and I'm really happy, especially in the second half when we needed that character, the guys showed it."
The bye has come at the right time, especially with a bunch of players expected back after the week's break.
"The bye came at the right time. Eli (Snyman) and Stoney (Ruan Steenkamp) will be back, there are quite a few guys back from injury after the bye so it will make it difficult for selection. That is a good problem to have."
While bonus points have been few and far between, there is little to criticise the Bulls at this point, although now that the first phase is done and dusted, the bigger challenges will come.
"I also saw that Rassie was impressed with the way we are playing and it is the way he wants to play. I know Polly will be there and feel we are laying a good groundwork for the Springboks. It helps us, it suits us, and we are playing good rugby with Handre in control and I am very satisfied.
"No I think we just need to win first, and the bonus points will come. At this stage we just need momentum and you know what happened to the Bulls in the past, we had a good start and then everything fell apart. For us now it is just to focus on every game, we will take it game by game and the Chiefs are the next game in two weeks' time. We will prepare for them now."
For now though those smiles at Loftus probably won't be written off for a good fortnight. And after years of suffering, Bulls fans will join them after a good start to the competition.
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