Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White was happy with his team’s resolve to recover from a poor first half and beat the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Bulls continued their winning run as they came back from a 15-10 half-time deficit to claim a 30-25 victory in the Gauteng derby.
The victory saw the Bulls go six points clear at the top of the Super Rugby Unlocked table, as Jake White’s side claimed their third win in a row, following bonus-point wins over the Sharks and Stormers.
However, the game at Ellis Park was less than straightforward as the Lions dominated the set-piece battle and had the better of the territory in the first half. The Bulls also found themselves disrupted by injuries as in-form flank Elrigh Louw was forced off in the opening minutes of the match, while starting props Jacques van Rooyen and Trevor Nyakane also had to be substituted either side of the break.
‘It is always tough to play away, so to get an away win is always fantastic,’ White told the media after the game. ‘I am very proud of the way we came back in the second half. It was like two different teams played.
‘It is not an excuse but what happened was that we had a lot of disruptions. We lost our hooker [Johan Grobbelaar] on Thursday and then we lost our flank in the first five minutes of the game. Then we lost both props. A lot was asked of the bench and the guys that came on. We know that they are a relatively young group of players in terms of the time they have spent together. So to get them to play 40 minutes like that, when they haven’t really spent much time on the field as a unit is obviously very pleasing.
‘It was a tough game and I am obviously very pleased that we have managed to get the result. Sometimes you need to win these kinds of games ugly as well. It is not always going to be one-sided.’
While the Bulls did have their problems at the scrum throughout the match, White said that one area he was pleased with was how they dealt with the Lions’ breakdown threat.
‘I was really happy, based off the kind of back row that the Lions had picked,’ White said. ‘They picked the kind of back row to get in there and spoil and slow the game down, make it a bit scrappy. I thought, at times, they were a bit fortunate that they didn’t get the law against them. In one set of continual attack from the Bulls, they infringed four times.
‘It was difficult for us to get going. That’s probably why they picked the back row that they did. They had the goal of trying to break the rhythm of our attack and they did it quite well.
‘As I said, we weren’t accurate enough in the set-pieces. We didn’t get go-forward. Mauling-wise, I thought we were quite good. It is a work in progress for us. Those sorts of lessons you will learn as you grow.’
Photo: Sydney Sehibedi/Gallo Images