Setpieces will be spot on - Matfield
Vodacom Bulls assistant coach Victor Matfield has moved to allay worries about the setpieces as his team prepare for this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby semifinal showdown with the Brumbies at Loftus Versfeld.
As the game gets closer, there is a concern that the flaws exposed by both the Stormers and Sharks in the Bulls' last two games may be a problem for the home side against a team that plays very much the same game as they do this weekend, but Matfield, who is both the forwards and attacking coach for the Super Rugby franchise, believes there are minor adjustments that simply need to be made to make the Bulls' setpiece a force again.
“I think the scrums have actually been quite good in the last two games. Sometimes penalties are conceded and it can go anyway depending on how the ref sees it. Against the Stormers it could have gone against them as well,” Matfield said on the scrums.
“As for the lineouts, against the Sharks Keegan Daniel stole a few balls, and perhaps we were a bit conservative in the way we approached that. But against the Stormers we had 16 lineouts and we lost two, if you take the first game against them we lost four lineouts so it wasn’t as bad.
“We did compete against the Stormers, but there were three of their balls that landed on the ground. It is always a fine line, and a guy like JK (Juandre Kruger) isn’t here – and he brings a lot of confidence to guys in the team, and also the media. Grant (Hattingh) is doing a good job in his absence and it is still an area where we want to put more pressure on the opposition ball as well.
“If we can win all our own ball, and put them under pressure on their ball then we have done a good job.”
And that underlines the Bulls' outlook this week. Nothing fancy, rather a quiet determination to do the basics right. Do them right, they believe, and the rest will follow naturally.
“The most important thing this week is that we get ourselves right. Saturday’s result won’t be determined by a team doing something out of the ordinary but rather the team that does its basics will win the game. That means our focus is on our setpieces, our kicking game needs to be good and then we need to be accurate when we attack.
"We know this will be a pressure game but if we can get our basics right and limit the mistakes in the game, then we should be able to walk away with a win,” Matfield explained.
One thing the former Bok captain did point out, was that the Bulls needed to have their decision-making spot on, and more than that needed to ensure they protect their ball at the breakdown, where Wallaby legend George Smith will be a massive factor on the day.
“The whole Brumbies team is strong on the ground and if you look at their game against the British and Irish Lions, they made it very difficult at the breakdown. We perhaps played the wrong way against the Stormers. At a stage we tried to play too much rugby, especially in that grey area between the two 10m lines, and the Stormers' defence was good. It all comes down to game-management and when to play and when not to play. We need to make good decisions on the day.”
And while many will see an aerial ping-pong strategy set to be employed, the Bulls haven’t ruled out taking the ball wide, but as with all their mantras, they want to do it at the right time in the right areas of the field.
“We play a decision-making game, and you need to make the right decisions on the field. When the opportunity presents itself, you need to take the right decision at that moment. We would love to play expansive rugby, but it needs to happen at the right time and in the right place. Also, if you only attack close in, then it is easier to defend.”
The Bulls will name their team at lunchtime Wednesday with a return to the starting line-up for midfielder Jan Serfontein and halfback Francois Hougaard on the cards.