‘SA conference wide open’

What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about Saturday's matches involving South African teams.

'Congratulations to both those teams for a wonderful display of entertaining rugby. It was open, running rugby. There was some great offloading from the Lions and good control from the Bulls. The Bulls scored three wonderful tries in the first half, and then Pierre Spies came off the bench with that explosive try in the second half.

'It was end-to-end entertainment for the whole game. It seems as though the Lions have kick-started the move for South African teams to play with a bit more width. And the Bulls have embraced this. They were a team that was very much structured around set pieces and running off nine, they've brought variety to their game and it's really paid off.

'I think if they go on this tour knowing they can close it up with their kicking game, their solid lineout and their defensive game, or they can play it wide and create try-scoring opportunities for their outside backs. They're going to go on this tour with much more confidence than they have on previous occasions.

'The Bulls tend to kick almost immediately after they win the ball, either in their 22 or in their half. They don't play the ball through phases to bring up the wings and to isolate the fullback, and then kick into space.

'That's what the Lions have been doing very well. They're very comfortable on the ball, so they'll play the ball out of their 22 and up to the 10-yard line, and they'll only revert to a kicking game once they see space in behind.

'That's something the Bulls need to add onto their game. They are still very predictable in their exit strategies and against New Zealand sides, or against the Lions who ran it back at them, they should be a little bit careful of that.

'Francois Hougaard has been playing on the wing for the last three months, but I thought he came into scrumhalf really well and helped the Bulls close out the game. Scrumhalf is a very specialised position and it would've been quite difficult for him moving back.

'It was a very disappointing performance from the Stormers today. They are the ones who have fallen back the worst today. They probably went to Bloemfontein expecting to beat the Cheetahs, to cement their place at the top of the log. And it would've been great for them if the Lions had beaten the Bulls, but instead both results have gone against them and it's blown the conference right open.'

Five lessons from round 12 of Super Rugby

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Nick Mallett