PRETORIA - Happiness finally returned to Loftus Versfeld when the Blue Bulls survived a late onslaught from the Griquas to record a 44-41 win on Friday.
The win not only catapulted the Bulls from sixth to third place on the log but it showed a much-improved performance that was underlined by a dominance in the scrums and some breathtaking attacking play, especially from Junior Springbok Manie Libbok, who scored a hat-trick of tries.
What would have been important for director of rugby and head coach John Mitchell was the intent shown by his team with ball in hand. And while defence still remains an issue of concern, the men in blue were finally able to break a four match losing run that had threatened to derail their campaign.
Mitchell was particularly pleased with the attitude his team showed and how they were able to maintain team discipline after suffering a spate of yellow cards in their last five matches.
“Winners are grinners. You got to take what you get. Obviously we are back in contention so we got to take it one week at a time,” Mitchell said. “The scrum was good and I thought that the attitude was tremendous.
"I thought there was better team work but obviously we need to make some adjustments and get some better learning on the scrum defence and the wingers defence. What I thought was smart was we played with intelligence and kept 15 men on the field which is something we haven’t done as a team in a while.”
But Mitchell could not hold himself from being critical at his team’s poor defence which again leaked more tries than they scored and almost saw Griquas sneak in a late victory at the end.
Mitchell was scathing of his outside backs and said they should quickly get themselves up to speed with the system if they are to stay in the team.
“We are nowhere near there yet but we were better on the inside with the forwards being outstanding actually.
"Also our defensive maul goes to show if you stick to one system things will be much better. There will still be a bit of pain defensively as we go along because it is totally new for a lot of South African wingers,” said Mitchell.
The Bulls will now enjoy a bye weekend but will be hard at training as they will return to action with two tough away matches against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg and the Sharks in Durban which are games that Mitchell insists they must win if they want to be title contenders.
“To do well in this competition one has to hunt points away from home as well. So having previously won a Currie Cup, I know that wins away from home are critical,” Mitchell added.