Bulls looking to overcome Newlands mauling
In what hasn’t been a good week for the Vodacom Blue Bulls, coach Pine Pienaar was both honest and forthright about his side’s performance against Western Province last weekend.
And while the 42-6 defeat at the hands of Western Province is history now, a lot will depend how the young Bulls side can work through their mental scars from the Newlands mauling and make sure they bounce right back this weekend when they face defending champions, the Lions at Loftus Versfeld.
There was little good to be said of the Newlands performance, and Pienaar wasn’t looking for excuses. Talk of tough words falling in the changerooms isn’t uncommon in these sort of situations, but both after the game and earlier this week there was a real need for some introspection.
Forgetting the loss would be easy, but learning lessons from it is important. As Pienaar named his side for this weekend’s game there wasn’t a mad rush to change the guard. Rather, players need to step up and show the faith the coach has in them can transform into a victory.
But while Pienaar and his coaching team were looking hard for answers, they were forced to make one change in the starting line-up. A broken arm for Deon Stegmann means Warwick Tecklenburg gets a start in the loose trio, while Jean Cook moves up from the under-21s. Jan Serfontein, who replaced Francois Venter a few hours before the game, makes way for Venter again, with the IRB Junior Player of the year plying his trade at under-21 level this weekend again.
And on the bench, the return of impressive youngster Bongi Mbonambi will also give the team’s fortunes a boost.
But when it comes to talking about what happened at Newlands, Pienaar is very straightforward and brutal in his assessment.
“Our ball carriers never gave us any momentum. With that we were put under pressure at the breakdowns. We could never get on the front foot and we lost that battle. WP defended well and we were placed under pressure,” Pienaar said about his team’s 33% ball possession during the game.
Still, with the Bulls – like many other teams in the Currie Cup – having an up and down season, away wins are a rarity. Pienaar has his own theory on this.
“It’s a combination of two things – if you have a look at the draw, every single game you play pits a side that won the previous week against a side that lost the previous week. If you are the side that lost, you will be with your back against the wall and work harder for the win, because two losses in a row can be critical. Second reason is probably because most of the sides play with a few youngsters, and sometimes they struggle.
“But there are no excuses for me. If you lose 42-6, there are no excuses, we got whipped. We can only blame ourselves and we played a game where we gave away 17 penalties, gave away nine turnovers and lost five setpieces. You can’t play like that. We missed 28 tackles, it is not good enough.
“You can talk a good game now, but you have to perform this week and it is important to us. Our focus this week is to make sure we can play a better game than last week,” he explains.
And play a better game is necessary as the Lions are also coming off a loss. The Bulls know they are under the kosh this week, and losing to the old enemy has upped the levels of scrutiny even more.
But as always, its how they react that will determine their fate in this year’s competition. Pienaar has laid down the law this week, how the Bulls respond will be interesting to watch.
Vodacom Blue Bulls team: Clayton Blommetjies, Akona Ndungane, Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, JJ Engelbrecht, Louis Fouche, Ruan Snyman, Dewald Potgieter (capt), CJ Stander, Warwick Tecklenburg, Grant Hattingh, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Werner Kruger, Willie Wepener, Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Frik Kirsten, Cornell Hess, Jean Cook, Rudy Paige, Lionel Cronje, Jürgen Visser.