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What happened to the good 'ol Bulls hit?

It is not very likely that the Bulls will be looking to the works of famed physicist Albert Einstein this week as they try to plug the holes in that sieve they call a defence. But if you ask us, that is exactly what they should do.

No, we are not about to delve into the intricacies of General Relativity just to find ways of stopping an average attack like that of the Rebels from running you off the park. We’re just saying that they are mad to defend the way they are currently. And it is on the subject of madness that we call on old Albert’s wisdom.

It is he who once described insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Almost as if he’s just seen the 'pink panters' defend.

The problem, of course, lies in the changes they made to their defensive system. Gone are the days of moving up in unison, cutting down space and crushing any runner who dares to make contact. Instead the Bulls now hang back, waiting for the hit, trying their best to keep the ball and whoever is attached to it off the ground.

It is an experiment that was worth taking, because a ball off the ground in contact is considered a maul, and after an off-season law change, a collapsed maul is a guaranteed turnover. They also have more than enough upper-body strength throughout the team to pull it off, especially against the smaller Australian backlines. It’s rugby’s take on Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope.

Except that in practice the exact opposite has happened. What they ended up doing was giving the Brumbies and the Rebels space to run - the one thing Australian backs need to thrive. And whenever there was a stationary tight forward defending out in the open, the results were almost comical. Even when contact was made, the Bulls conceded several metres in every tackle, pretty much handing the opposing attack go-forward ball.

The upshot is the worst “tries against” record in the top six of the Super Rugby log, and some seriously inflated Australian egos.

Which brings us back to that Einstein quote. If the Bulls expect different results from their defence against the Waratahs on Friday, they will be seriously mistaken. They cannot allow the likes of Sarel Pretorius and Daniel Halangahu to have a free run at them, because the damage could be much worse than that inflicted by an already-beaten Brumbies outfit or a limping Kurtley Beale.

They need to realise that their physical defence is one of their biggest weapons, and they have to look no further than their decimation of the frail Reds backline earlier this season for inspiration. Or perhaps the Springboks’ Tri-Nations campaign of 2004, which had a trophy as proof that rushing forward and knocking the living daylights out of anyone who even looks at the ball is the only way South Africans know how to defend.

Sure, keep the ball up and win turnovers that way - Springbok legend Andre Venter showed the way years ago. But do so when the opportunity presents itself. Don’t base your entire defensive system on it. It’s not working now, and it certainly won’t when you face the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Hosea Gear later on this tour.

We can already hear the more optimistic among you counter our argument with the trusted “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Sure, except that in this case the word ‘try’ may have a very different meaning.

Let’s move on to our team selections for this week.

Note: all our teams are selected on the past weekend's action only, so overall season form is not a factor. Players in teams with a bye are then obviously not considered.

Super XV for week 11:
15. Andre Taylor (Hurricanes) 14. Lelia Masaga (Chiefs) 13. Richard Kahui (Chiefs) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs) 11. Bjorn Basson (Bulls) 10. Pat Lambie (Sharks) 9. TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) 8. Scott Higginbotham (Reds) 7. Marcell Coetzee (Sharks) 6. Michael Hooper (Brumbies) 5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force) 4. Craig Clarke (Chiefs) 3. Owen Franks (Crusaders) 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) 1. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs).

Bok Barometer for week 11:
15. Zane Kirchner (Bulls) 14. JP Pietersen (Sharks) 13. Jaco Taute (Lions) 12. Wynand Olivier (Bulls) 11. Bjorn Basson (Bulls) 10. Pat Lambie (Sharks) 9. Charl McLeod (Sharks) 8. Keegan Daniel (Sharks) 7. Marcell Coetzee (Sharks) 6. Heinrich Brussouw (Cheetahs) 5. Juandre Kruger (Bulls) 4. Steven Sykes (Sharks) 3. WP Nel (Cheetahs) 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks) 1. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs).

Match of the week:

Our moan about the weak defence aside, there is no doubt that the match between the Rebels and the Bulls in Melbourne on Friday was by far the most entertaining of the weekend.

Make no mistake, letting in five tries apiece is hardly a statement about championship intentions, but the neutral observer wouldn’t have cared much. It was open, running rugby, and the Melbourne crowd enjoyed 80 minutes of full-out attacking rugby.

That is rare sight these days, and enough for this to be our match of the week.

Here are the highlights:

Please note that video footage is for the website only and is rights restricted and therefore only available in regions that fall within SuperSport’s broadcast footprint.

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Try of the week:

Quite a few contenders this week, but the nod goes to Pat Lambie’s score in the 62nd minute of the Sharks’ match against the Highlanders.

It started with Charl McLeod fielding a kick just inside his own half. With his back turned to the opposition the nippy scrumhalf ducked under two tackles before getting a brilliant offload away in a third. Keegan Daniel had the Sharks faithful pulling out their hair when he put up a speculative kick, but the ball bounced perfectly for the Sharks, allowing Lambie to dot down for this week’s try of the week.

Here is the try:

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And here is our top ten, brought to you by Powerade:

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Quotes of the week:

“He needs to move his…ass. Can I say that on telly? Oh well...” – Former All Black prop Craig Dowd wishes he knew as much about commentating as he does about scrums.

“Aaron Cruden has been busier than a one-legged river-dancer.” – New Zealand’s Sumo Stevenson takes note of the flyhalf’s work-rate.

Congratulations to:

  • Mark Gerrard – who played in his 100th Super Rugby (SR) match this weekend.
  • Hika Elliot – who played in his 50th SR game for the Chiefs.
  • Pat Lambie, Tom Taylor and Christian Lealiifano – who all passed the century mark for SR points scored this season.

Twitter files:

Here is what your favourite players got up to on twitter this week:

Peter Grant was the happy man getting married in the Stormers off week and given the season he is currently having, there was more than a bit to celebrate. Our best wishes to him and his bride for their future together.
It must have been painful for James O’Connor to see the real Justin Bieber at Floyd Mayweather’s side ahead of his fight with Miguel Cotto this past weekend, because he immediately got himself a new hero and a haircut to go with it. Meet Captain Australia...
Western Force flank Richard Brown made a new friend in Umhlanga – Ripley the Iguana. According to Force captain David Pocock’s twitter feed, one of the two on the photo hadn’t been using their nightcream regularly, and somehow it seems it wasn’t Ripley.
Last week we told you about the Hurricanes being a strange bunch. This week Ben May tried his best to take a shortcut up a steep ramp at the team’s training base, only to have the car roll backwards on the wet sand and hit teammate Alapati Leuia’s car. We’re sure that helped for team spirit. We’re scared to ask what they will do next week.

A grand battle

We’re sure you all noticed the “storm in a teacup” this week as players and management at a certain franchise bumped heads about match bonuses.

It started with a headline in a Sunday newspaper that stated there is a crisis between the two over whether players should get R2 000 bonus per game, or R3 000 as is the case at some other franchises.

It was resolved on Monday, according to a press release, and was apparently “never an issue” for either players or management.

We’re just glad it has been sorted, because if you've only got a Springbok contract, a Super Rugby contract, win bonuses, on- and off-field appearance fees, sponsorships, free cars and petrol, a R1 000 can make all the difference...

At least according to one Super Rugby player, who spoke to us after finding out a while ago that he was receiving that exact amount less in salary than his nearest rival.

He told us that he would fight for that money as “you need to remember I need to face my wife and kids and put bread and milk on the table.”

That must be the night the restaurants are closed...

When men were men, and coaches were b*stards!

All Black legend Colin Meads recently revealed some of the ways that Fred Allen used when trying to stir his troops into motion while he was coach of the All Blacks.

Apparently Allen loved to keep the players guessing, as he told the New Zealand Herald.

"Fred was second to none and he had all sorts of tricks to do that," Meads said. "He was never afraid to give the experienced All Blacks a showing-up in front of the younger guys just to keep you on your toes.

"A favourite [tactic] of Fred's was to read out telegrams in the dressing room before matches which he said came from supporters and that said things like: 'Meads is over the hill' and 'Meads has been there for too long'. "He would do that to get you fired up and also show the youngsters that no one was above criticism. But of course he would have composed the telegrams himself."

Things seem to be much easier for coaches nowadays. No need to compose anything, just a quick visit to twitter or the average sports blog and you’ll have all the material you need.

Are we alone, though, in missing the good old days when what you read had substance, and senseless negativity had to made by the coaches themselves?


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