Mitchell: 82nd-minute loss hard to take

John Mitchell says the Bulls must learn to win close games if they want to be involved at the business end of the competition.

The Bulls looked to have secured an important win when Jesse Kriel scored a 75th-minute converted try to give them a 28-26 lead.

But the hosts conceded a penalty for offside with 10 seconds remaining, which Lima Sapoaga slotted to snatch a one-point victory. It was a marginal call by New Zealand referee Glen Jackson.

‘To lose a game like that through an offside line is a little bit distasteful and hard to take, but that’s part of our growth [as a team],’ said Mitchell. ‘We had the match in our hands.

‘If we want to be there at the business end of the competition, these are the games we need to nail.’

WATCH: Bulls vs Highlanders highlights

Mitchell praised Lizo Gqoboka – who replaced the suspended Pierre Schoeman at loosehead prop – for his Man of the Match performance, as well as No 8 Thembelani Bholi and flyhalf Handré Pollard.

‘Lizo’s performance is a testament to the way we prepare, that he was able to come in and play with so much confidence for the full 80 minutes.

‘Thembelani is going from strength to strength,’ Mitchell added. ‘He’s really enjoying his rugby and it’s great to see him growing as a player and a person.

‘Handré controlled the middle of the field well and picked up space behind the [defensive] line. His tactical and territorial kicking has added a new dimension to his game. He’s also closing very well as a defender.’

Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

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Mariette Adams