Bulls coach John Mitchell accepted responsibility for his side’s stunning 38-28 loss to a 14-man Brumbies in Pretoria on Saturday.
Going into the final quarter of the match, the Bulls led 25-24 when Brumbies hooker Folau Fainga’a was sent off for a head-butt. After Handré Pollard kicked a penalty for the Bulls to make it 28-24, the Brumbies then scored two tries in the final 10 minutes to stun the Loftus faithful.
‘We let it slip. We did not earn it in the end. That was the game in a nutshell,’ said Mitchell.
‘When there is a poor performance, the first person to look at is myself. I take responsibility and look to see where we failed the group in preparation.
‘Without making excuses, we are becoming very thin up front. We do have a lot of players developing in Super Rugby and we didn’t get what we should have got out of finishing the game. Unfortunately, that’s part of the evolution that we are going to have to go through. There is no magic solution to this.’
The Bulls’ depleting forward stock was hardly helped as Mitchell confirmed that loose forwards Marco van Staden (knee/ankle fracture) and Roelof Smit (MCL) would both be set for stints on the sidelines.
Mitchell added that his team was left frustrated by the excellent work from the Brumbies forwards, led by a fantastic performance from David Pocock, who stifled their driving maul.
‘We are still getting guys at the back of mauls. It is an easy out to say they came through – swimming is the term – but there seems to be a lot of guys at the back of mauls, which is not ideal.
‘He is a good player, David. When we went into the middle of the field and were short of numbers at times, he got on the ball. He is a very experienced player. If he can dominate the tackle or be the tackle assist, he is always going to have a big impact on the ball.
‘We have made progress,’ Mitchell added. ‘But we have also shown developmental issues and concerns. I think there are also some positional concerns, looking at the stock of talent, I will have to wait until the end of the competition before I look at where we need to grow those stocks. As I said before, we are very light of loosies and in the front row at the moment.
‘We are at a point where we are bringing in development players that are not ready for Super Rugby, in my view.’
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images