PRETORIA - Another week, another loss.
That is becoming the sad old story for the Bulls this season but this time around their 28-12 loss against the Chiefs in Hamilton was a valiant one.
After falling to their shortcomings in the four matches they have lost so far this season, the Bulls showed a great deal of endeavour and intent against a Chiefs side that have now won all five of their matches.
It would have been a relief for the Bulls coaching staff and throng of supporters to finally see their team come good even though it was almost for an hour and not the entire game.
The men from South Africa’s capital city put on an authoritative showing dominating the possession and territory stakes especially in the first half but their biggest failure was their inability to convert the pressure into maximum points.
The Chiefs were constantly on the back foot in the opening stanza succumbing to some clever tactical kicking from Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard while the Bulls also showed good intent with ball in hand.
However, the Bulls struggled to find the fatal blow after several phases of giving the ball some air while mixing it up with some structured play from their lineouts and recycled possession from the breakdown and that is what kept the Chiefs in the game.
“It happened three times and I think at one stage we had like 64% territory and we were good on attack but every time we got down there they opted to give away a penalty and we could only get three points from it said Bulls coach Nollis Marais after the tightly contested encounter.
“I think they should have been yellow carded but I think we should have also used our opportunities better and definitely a much improved attacking side.”
While the Bulls were able to capitalise on some of their opportunities with Pollard slotting over three penalties to give the visitors a 9-3 lead at the half-time interval, they capitulated with ease when the Chiefs turned up the pressure a notch and were able to put together a few phases of their own with ball in hand.
In a space of 20 minutes, the hosts were able to take the lead for the first time in the game through a Shaun Stevenson try before taking full control of proceedings when All Black fullback Damian McKenzie scored a well worked try from a scrum.
It has often been these soft moments, be it in the first or second half, in that have cost them dearly and it was no different in Hamilton as the visitors chances of getting their second win of the season faded away late in the game with them conceding possession cheaply at the breakdown.
“There were too many crucial mistakes from us. We lost our own lineout and they scored from that and it gave them momentum and belief. Unfortunately if you have momentum and belief you are difficult to stop,” Marais said.
“We were good last year in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby with turnover ball. I think it is one or two decision making things and make mistakes and we don’t get over the try-line.
“The Chiefs were excellent in stopping us on the try-line, they were good at the breakdown and in certain areas we need to improve on.”
The Bulls have one more game on their short but disastrous tour and that is against the Sunwolves in Tokyo next weekend.
After losing to the Blues and Chiefs, the game against the Sunwolves is one they will need to win if they are to still have a chance at doing something special in the competition.