Pretoria – Bulls coach Frans Ludeke pinpointed his side’s defensive efforts and the performance of flyhalf Morne Steyn as the main factors in their victory over the Stormers in their opening Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
“The battle on the gainline was massive and you could see that from all the bumps and bruises, but from our side it required a big effort to keep them out,” Ludeke said.
“We are very satisfied and Pine (Pine Pienaar, Bulls defensive coach) made a few small adjustments and the big thing was the work rate and it paid dividends tonight.”
Steyn’s accurate place-kicking separated the two sides as he contributed 20 points to his side’s 25-17 victory over the Stomers.
The hosts went into the half-time break with a nine-point lead which gave them the psychological edge in the second half.
Matters could have looked different had Stormers flyhalf Elton Jantjies succeeded with his three attempts at goal in the first half.
Steyn, however, looked reinvigorated following last year’s drop in form, which saw the marksman-like kicker lose his place as the number one pivot in the country.
On Friday night his 2012 endeavours seemed in the distant past as he also impressed with his tactical kicking which compounded the pressure on the Stormers.
“That is the thing with senior players they can put a bad season behind them, that is what Morne did, it was a great start for him and it was great to have him back to his best,” Ludeke said.
“Especially with a game like this because that was the difference in the first half we kicked our goals and that applied pressure on them and it forced their hand a few times in the second half.
“That gave us some field position with turnovers and it just built momentum for us.”
Bulls skipper Pierre Spies said the team could not have asked for a better start to their campaign and felt it would give them the confidence ahead of their next clash.
“It was important to start the season well, it is a high pressure game when you play the Stormers and it is the first game of the season. So there is a lot at stake,” Spies said.
“When you win the game you take the confidence and momentum into the next week.
“It was a great team effort tonight and we were clinical and we are happy with the result.”
Meanwhile, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee did not mince his words saying it was a poor performance from his charges.
“It is early in the season and we know now where we are as a team…it is just the mistakes and you can’t make that many mistakes in a rugby game,” Coetzee said.
“It has that snowball effect and you don’t get into the game at all and you don’t give yourself opportunity to play.”
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers echoed Coetzee’s sentiments and said the team was flat in the first half where they gave away “too many stupid penalties within kickable range”.
“It is a massive wakeup call for us and it just shows the difference between Currie Cup and Super Rugby,” De Villiers said.
“It is step-up and we didn’t make that step today, it is only the first week of the competition but we need to improve from here.
“Last year we managed to take points from every single game we played and this time around we didn’t even get a point tonight, it is definitely a couple of steps backwards.” – Sapa