Mitchell believes Bulls are on track

    2018-02-12 14:17

    Brenden Nel - SuperSport

    Johannesburg - Bulls coach John Mitchell was all smiles after his side’s pre-season win over the Jaguares at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, and believes his team are on track in their preparations for the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament that gets underway this weekend.

    The Bulls aren’t in action this weekend, taking a bye before they hit the ground running in a week’s time when they face the Hurricanes in their first game, and Mitchell is keen to ensure his charges aren’t short-changed when they come up against last season’s semifinalists, according to the website.

    The win over the Jaguares had some good moments, especially a well-worked try where Jesse Kriel broke to send Warrick Gelant over for the score, but there was also a lot of rustiness in the play of a number of Springboks, something that will get better with time.

    But Mitchell was happy with the outing and believes his charges are getting better.

    “Yeah you’ve heard me say before we’re trying to build a squad of 38 and depth is critical. At the end of the day, whether selected or not, everyone has to be ready. I thought the first half team did very well against a test side, so it brings closure in their mind as to the international aspect of the competition and everyone is now on the same timeline.

    “All the returnees are back as well, and I always knew they would be a bit untidy. Conditions were needed to be adapted to as well, and the defence was quite suffocating on the opposition. Still plenty of things to do but there was a lot of nice stuff done.”

    Mitchell was pleased with the try scored by Gelant but pointed out the Boks still needed more game time.

    “That was good, was good that they stuck to the structure there and they built pressure quite well, but they got a little bit individual, and a little bit alone but that was always to be expected in their first run. We’ve come out of it not too bad as well – Jason (Jenkins) has just got a little knock to an AC joint but again, we’re reasonably healthy.”

    There were a number of fringe players who put their hands up, including Marco van Staden on the flank, Ruben van Heerden at lock and the halfback pairing of Manie Libbock and Embrose Papier, and Mitchell has taken note of their influence in the first half.

    “That’s the job I want, I want to be able to make hard decisions but in the end I’ve clearly got a 23 in mind for the first week and we are going to need everyone, because we are going to get knocks. The good thing about it is – do you go through a pre-season and play all your best, and wait for the other guys to arrive or do you give them an opportunity and create a development programme that not only looks after this competition but the future of the club as well.

    “Its gone to plan, lets put it that way but we haven’t finished yet, we don’t start the competition next week, we have another trial. So we will just keep on preparing and hopefully when we get to the competition we will be ready to go. You could see in the second half, the second team needs more time on the field. They will get that next week.”

    The Bulls will have a final trial – a “koppestamp” within their squad with two teams facing off away from the glaring eye of the public on Saturday – so as to finalise their preparations.

    But Mitchell’s plan is moving forward, and he believes they are on track to be ready for their season start in a fortnight’s time.

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