Bulls back on track
The Vodacom Blue Bulls got their Absa Currie Cup campaign back on track as their slow-poison tactics claimed the Free State Cheetahs' scalp with a 26-10 victory at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The competition reached the halfway mark with only eight points separating the Griquas at the bottom of the log and Western Province in the lead on 16 points.
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar complimented his charges for the way they absorbed the pressure from the visitors to grind out the victory.
“In the first half we played well, it didn't look like it, but we went through the phases and we got the turnovers,” he said.
“The message the whole week was to keep that focus up and keep working and believe it is going to turn.
“The message at halftime was that we had to grind it out and we had to work harder.”
The Blue Bulls moved into fifth place on the log, six points adrift of Western Province, while the Cheetahs dropped from second place to fourth on 12 points.
The visitors held on to a slender 5-3 lead going into the halftime break and Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske believed they could have had a greater advantage, had they converted all their scoring opportunities.
“This was definitely our worst match this season and there were many opportunities for us to score points, which we didn't take,” Drotske said.
“We could not finish because we weren't sharp enough and the Bulls defended well in the second half.”
Pienaar said his team's patience paid off in the second half as they put in an improved performance thanks to better ball retention.
“The guys showed tremendous character on defence, we played against one of the teams that play with the most flair in the competition,” he said.
“There is a lot of stuff that we have to work on if we want to stay in the running.”
The Bulls' forward pack in particular laid the foundation for the victory as they dominated almost every facet of play.
While the Cheetahs pack at first dominated the scrum, the Bulls eventually controlled this area of play, while the visitors also struggled on their own lineout throw.
The Bulls mentor felt the victory would instil some confidence in his team, who were battered in the two preceding matches against the Golden Lions and Sharks.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge for us in the Currie Cup and it still is, so they need to believe in their own ability,” Pienaar said.
“Hopefully tonight with the win, it can settle that belief and say we can go a long way, with the performance we put up tonight there is no reason for us not to do that.
“There are no excuses for us anymore, the boys have learnt and they now have five senior games behind them so it is important that we make a step-up in our performance every week.”
The Bulls will face Western Province at Loftus Versfeld next Saturday, while the Cheetahs host the Lions the day before.