Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee and coach Jake White admitted there were harsh lessons to learn after their disappointing performance in the North-South Rainbow Cup final against Benetton in Treviso.
The Italian side ended a remarkable season turn-around by dismantling the men from Pretoria in front of their home crowd at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo.
And after a vastly superior performance, the Italians ultimately claimed a 35-8 win after taking a commanding 20-8 lead at the break.
For all their dominance on domestic front, the Bulls were nowhere in this final and were reduced to bystanders from start to finish.
Coetzee, who led the Bulls in the absence of the injured Duane Vermeulen, said Benetton were deserved winners of the title.
“Fair play to Benetton, they thoroughly outplayed us in all areas today,” he explained.
“We have to take the loss on the chin and take the learnings onboard. They were brilliant with their handling and played in the right areas while managing to keep the pressure on us right through the game.”
Commenting on his side’s error-strewn performance, Bulls coach Jake White said: “It was a bit arrogant from South Africans to just assume you arrive in Italy, you beat this club side and come back home.”
“This is a different proposition altogether. We’ve been playing against each other for the past months, we know each other backwards and every coaching staff.
“To be honest, we know every tactic because it’s all we’ve seen for about a year. To come here into the unknown makes you so much better. I’m glad we had the opportunity. I’m disappointed we didn’t get over the line, but we’ve grown.
“We can’t come here assuming everything will be the same. We looked like an inexperienced team today. There wasn’t one aspect of the game where we looked as if we were on top of it. That’s not how we’ve been over the past period.
“It’s easier to do analysis on domestic rugby. It’s far tougher on teams and players you don’t know. That’s the uniqueness of playing here.”
Triumphant Benetton skipper Dewald Duvenhage, a former Stormers scrumhalf, indicated that his side was fairly confident going into the historic cup final match.
“We were tactically good with ball in hand, while we also managed to keep on the pressure throughout the match,” Duvenhage said.
“The team played well on attack, while we must also give credit to defence coach Marius Goosen, who prepared us very well in that department.”