Cape Times

Bulls need to finish off their line-breaks to get past Lyon

- ASHFAK MOHAMED ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

A DEFEAT is never a good thing, but if the Bulls could choose which game they had to lose at the business end of the season, it may have been last weekend’s United Rugby Championsh­ip clash against Leinster in Dublin.

The Pretoria side had gone to the RDS Arena on a six-match winning streak in all competitio­ns since their December loss to the Storrmers, and would have thought that they had a realistic chance of beating Leinster.

Instead, having led 14-12 at half-time, they were blown away by a devastatin­g Leinster second-half blitz that raised important issues before Saturday’s Champions Cup round of 16 play-off against Lyon at Loftus Versfeld (1.30pm kick-off).

The Bulls are now third on the URC log on 45 points, trailing Leinster (54) and Glasgow (49). “We will be better. The learnings we got in front of a very supportive crowd, playing against a very good team with pace and tempo … There are a lot of learnings,” coach Jake White said after the Leinster clash.

“I also think everyone will appreciate that when you play at home, there is definite value to playing there. That’s why everyone tries so hard to make sure they finish on top of the log in all the competitio­ns, because to play at home in front of your own crowd – to sleep in your bed, etc – is also a massive bonus.

“It is probably a good lesson for us to play Leinster before we play Lyon in a knockout game because the next week, if we get through, we play the winner of Northampto­n and Munster – and that’s not going to be easy either.

“And the following week, we happen to be playing Munster again in the URC.

“So, the next month is not going to be any different to what we experience­d (in Dublin) in terms of intensity, accuracy, pressure. Those are lessons we will have to put into our planning and preparatio­ns, to get them to understand that we are going to have to handle those kinds of situations against really good teams.”

Well, some of those lessons should revolve around finishing, to start with. White pointed to the impact of the powerful Leinster bench that made a major difference in the second half, but the Bulls had enough chances to make a game of it.

There were a couple of missed line-outs, a number of 22m entries which ended in a knock-on, penalty or turnover, poor one-onone tackles and general lack of intensity in defence, and an inaccurate kicking game.

But there were some good things in the first half that the Bulls need to build on to get the better of Lyon on Saturday. “There were a couple of things I was very happy about, how we did certain things. The scrum in the beginning was outstandin­g, I thought our line-out in the first half was very accurate, and we did create chances,” White said.

“Literally right at the end, we were 5m from their tryline again. There was a bit of fight there – it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

“The one thing Leinster taught me, and reaffirmed, is the ability for them to go into transition from defence into attack was phenomenal.

“Every time we made a mistake, they punished us. If you recall, we probably had three or four chances where we had line-breaks into their 22, and we never came away with a try.

“That just shows that every time they transition­ed from a bad kick or turnover ball, they literally got away with points.”

White will also have to ponder a few big selection calls for the Lyon knockout clash. Springbok flank Marco van Staden is unlikely to be ready after sustaining a knee ligament injury in Dublin, so the Bulls will hope that young No 8 Cameron Hanekom is fit to feature at Loftus.

Van Staden’s absence may result in cocaptain Marcell Coetzee moving to the No 6 spot anyway, with either Hanekom, Mpilo Gumede or Nizaam Carr slotting in at the back of the scrum.

Also, what to do with Canan Moodie? The Springbok star had a better outing at outside centre than in the previous week against the Dragons, but for a Champions Cup play-off, it may be wiser to shift him back to wing alongside Kurt-Lee Arendse and Willie le Roux in the back three.

That should see Stedman Gans return at No 13, while Harold Vorster’s physicalit­y could give him the edge over David Kriel’s skills at inside centre.

Who to pick at hooker is another hot topic for debate, with Akker van der Merwe and Jan-Hendrik Wessels’ line-out work impressive over the last few weeks, whereas Johan Grobbelaar has surprising­ly missed the target at times.

 ?? BackpagePi­x ?? BULLS co-captain Marcell Coetzee (with ball in hand), who was one of the better performers against Leinster, may shift to flank against Lyon following an injury to Marco van Staden. |
BackpagePi­x BULLS co-captain Marcell Coetzee (with ball in hand), who was one of the better performers against Leinster, may shift to flank against Lyon following an injury to Marco van Staden. |

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