Simphiwe Matanzima of the Vodacom Bulls during the 2021 Carling Black Label Currie Cup semifinal between the Bulls and Western Province at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on 3 September 2021 © Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
Simphiwe Matanzima of the Vodacom Bulls during the 2021 Carling Black Label Currie Cup semifinal between the Bulls and Western Province at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on 3 September 2021 © Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

Three issues Bulls must fix for the Currie Cup final

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Sep 7, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - The last time the Blue Bulls faced the Sharks, they lost 35-28 at Kings Park on 6 August.

On that Friday night, the Pretoria side surged into a 20-10 lead after 30 minutes, courtesy of a Johan Goosen goal-kicking show and tries by Elrigh Louw and Lizo Gqoboka.

But they lost their way in the second half, with Stedman Gans’ yellow card followed by three tries in seven minutes from Kerron van Vuuren, Grant Williams and Murray Koster as the Sharks claimed a well-deserved victory.

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And while the Bulls were full value for their 48-31 semi-final win over Western Province last Friday, there are still a few issues that they need to address ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Durbanites at Loftus ...

Stop driving mauls

While any team will concede driving-maul tries from time to time, it is becoming a worrying habit for the Bulls.

Sharks hooker Van Vuuren started the comeback for his team in Durban by scoring off a maul, while the Free State Cheetahs and Province have produced five-pointers in that manner in recent weeks.

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Van Vuuren was at it again in the semi-final win over Griquas at the weekend, controlling the ball cleverly at the back of the maul and charging over on two occasions.

Two ways of stopping the opposition’s momentum in a maul is to firstly contest the lineout, or to drive them back just as the jumper’s feet touches the ground.

Bulls locks Ruan Nortje and Janko Swanepoel are excellent in the air, and that may be the best way for Jake White’s team to avoid conceding such five-pointers.

React quicker in defence

The Bulls will be relieved that scrumhalf Williams is in Australia with the Springboks and won’t be at Loftus on Saturday, as he caught them off-guard with his speed and skills in the league match with his quick-tap penalties.

Since the beginning of August, the Bulls have conceded 35, 33, 21, 26, 36 and 31 points in each match, and have leaked 260 points in total – with the Sharks (223) and Pumas (256) – with better defensive records. And remember, the Bulls had two matches cancelled as well: against the Cheetahs because of Covid-19 protocols and the Sharks due to the KwaZulu-Natal riots.

Greater use of kicking game

It was wonderful to watch some thrilling ball-in-hand attacking rugby from the Bulls against Western Province last week, where Johan Goosen’s long, flat passes in front of the defence led to White comparing his skills to Stephen Larkham.

But if those same gaps aren’t as easily found against the Sharks, Goosen, scrumhalf Zak Burger and fullback David Kriel should make greater use of their boots to bring a bit more variety to their play.

In that way, wings Madosh Tambwe and Cornal Hendricks – who are both outstanding in the air – can contest those up-and-unders as well, and that will keep the Sharks defence guessing, as they will be forced to keep some players at the back instead of just employing a rush defence.

@AshfakMohamed

IOL Sport

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