Chris Rossouw: Bulls backs have come a long way
CAPE TOWN - With the pack solid and efficient for most of the season, and Morné Steyn slotting his kicks at goal, it is almost as if the old Bulls machine is rumbling along to the Currie Cup title.
But the improvement in their backline and attacking play – despite the disruptions caused by the coronavirus – cannot be ignored.
The Pretoria outfit scored the most tries in Super Rugby Unlocked (20 in six matches) and now in the Currie Cup (35 in 13). Sure, they were able to fulfil all their fixtures, while they also only missed out on one (against Griquas) in the Currie Cup due to Covid-19 protocols.
But it’s not just about scoring tries: some teams, like Western Province, rely heavily on their driving maul to get over the line.
The Bulls, though, play with a flair and swagger that is seldom seen in South African teams. They test defences with a variety of weapons – their scrum, driving maul, hard-running forwards off scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl, but also cross-kicks from Steyn to the wings, counter-attacks from Kurt-Lee Arendse and David Kriel, and centres such as Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans who can take the ball up and spread it wide.
“It has been a while since we won something, so that’s a massive motivation,” Bulls backline coach Chris Rossouw said ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld (3pm kick-off).
“We realise that we have come a far way in a short period of time, but we understand that we are busy with a process to build a union that will be able to compete every week globally.
“We have a good spine in the backline with Ivan, Morné and Cornal, and the young guys around them have grown tremendously in the last four months. We are very pleased with what they are achieving every week, and they had another great performance against the Lions.”
The Sharks have arguably bigger names in their back division, with Aphelele Fassie, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Curwin Bosch and Sanele Nohamba. But that doesn’t mean that the Bulls backline will just let them dictate the tempo on Saturday.
“If you look back to 2020, the Sharks were probably the most consistent team – and a big part of that was their backline,” said Rossouw, who won the title twice as a WP flyhalf in 2000 and 2001.
“They’ve got very exciting players, and got a good mix between experience and youngsters coming through. It will be a backline who can play an expansive game, and are also good defensively. It’s nice to watch them play over the last 12 months. It’s a massive challenge for us, to see how we go against them.”
Rossouw added that the “verdict is still out” on whether Gans will recover from his hamstring niggle that kept him out of the semi-final, but that they do have an able replacement in Marnus Potgieter – while Marco Jansen van Vuren did a fine job against the Lions as well.