Bulls must ‘play some rugby’ to breach Lions defence
CAPE TOWN - It was somewhat surprising to hear the Bulls saying this week that the Lions’ attack has a sense of unpredictability about it.
Both veteran Morné Steyn and youngster Elrigh Louw used the exact same phrase when asked what they expected from their Gauteng rivals in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final at Loftus Versfeld (2pm kick-off).
“With the Lions, you never quite know what to expect,” said Steyn.
Louw stated: “The thing about the Lions is that you never quite know what to expect on the day.”
Perhaps it was just ‘media talk’ that those Bulls players were dishing out, but one thing they all do know about the opposition is that they possess a 60-metre-plus goal-kicker in Tiaan Swanepoel.
Steyn added that the Lions fullback’s long-range ability “makes it difficult for us because you know you cannot concede a penalty in a range of 60 metres, so our big focus will be on our discipline. We must give away as few penalties as possible”.
There is no doubt that the Johannesburg side are a handful on attack. Elton Jantjies varies his play cleverly with long passes or cross-kicks, Wandisile Simelane has that knack of bursting past opposition defenders, and Stean Pienaar is capable of creating something out of nothing.
Strong ball-carriers such as Willem Alberts, Vincent Tshituka and Marnus Schoeman will also keep the Bulls engaged around the fringes.
But the real danger for the Bulls would be to go into their shell as a result. They boast some of the finest attacking talents in South African rugby this season.
Stedman Gans has been the stand-out player. He has excellent speed for an outside centre, his anticipation of play comes from his Sevens background, and his time on the ball is something to behold.
Gans is able to spark moves and finish them off, while his partner Cornal Hendricks isn’t far behind in that regard. The former Springbok wing has been a wrecking-ball in midfield, with his trademark side-step and physicality helping him to unlock defences.
Kurt-Lee Arendse has been another Sevens revelation, where his incredible pace and ability to maintain his width on attack has been a key element of the Bulls’ structure.
Halfbacks Ivan van Zyl and Steyn have enjoyed some memorable moments on attack as well, and are able to mix up their play with the boot and ball-in-hand, while Louw and Duane Vermeulen will be hard to stop upfront.
The Pretoria side’s defence has also been top-notch this season, having conceded 22 tries since Super Rugby Unlocked started – compared to the 20 of the Lions (who played one fewer match), 21 of Western Province and 26 of the Sharks.
So, the Bulls should have nothing to fear from the Lions. But they cannot just bank on Steyn’s goal-kicking boot to take them to the final, as Swanepoel will match him. They will have to “play some rugby”, to paraphrase Rassie Erasmus – in other words, they must not hesitate to unleash their X-factor players.