JOHANNESBURG - The Bulls are certain that the lineout woes that led to their first loss of the season against the Lions are a thing of the past and that they should be back to their best when they face the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
It was in the lineouts where they were savagely mauled by the Lions last weekend with the Johannesburg side scoring four tries from the driving mauls.
Bulls coach John Mitchell lamented their lack of technical accuracy at the setpiece and is confident that it is an area of the game they have addressed ahead of their tour opener.
“We just adjusted something technically, it was something very small, and we’ll come back again with good structure. It is an area that requires a plan and players to fulfil their positions technically. We fell short in that area through our own technical fault,” said Mitchell from the team’s base on Australia’s Gold Coast.
And part of the adjustment the Bulls have made is bringing Nic de Jager at number eight with Hanro Liebenberg shifting to blindside flank in place of Thembelani Bholi who has been dropped from the match day squad.
The change in personnel amongst the loose trio could help alleviate the pressure the Bulls endured against the Lions lineout but the presence of De Jager will also bring in much needed experience in handling any threats from the driving maul.
At the same time the presence of Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane and lock Jason Jenkins on the bench adds weight to the Bulls intentions of finishing the game stronger but not letting go of their dominance in the setpieces.
As obvious as it will be for the Bulls to show an improvement in what was a major weakness last week in the lineouts, they will also have to bring about much focus on their defence and in exercising patience according to Mitchell.
Not every day you get the chance to train for a rugby match on a driving range!
Some Wallaby fans came out to show their support too ;) #BullsFamily50K #REDvBUL pic.twitter.com/udWAmnCXap
“There is always something in the week to work on. One area fed into the rest of our game last week. We can improve defensively and on our patience. We must make sure we have coverage and look to grow in all areas of our game.”
Mitchell has also tinkered with his backline handing Springbok Warrick Gelant his first start of the season at fullback and so too wing Duncan Matthews while the decision to move Handre Pollard back to flyhalf from inside centre and wing Johnny Kotze to number 12 will be an area the Reds will look to exploit.
While Kotze has been outstanding for the men in blue out wide in his two starts against the Hurricanes and Lions, the former Stormers back is untested at inside centre.
However, Mitchell believes that Kotze’s physical attributes will come in handy in stopping the robust and direct Reds’ midfield of Chris Feauai-Sautia and Samu Kerevi in being effective.
“In their two fixtures they have demonstrated first phase attack in that area. We are not preoccupied with defence but it is an area we will have to win gain line and stop them from any sort of momentum,” Mitchell said.
Bulls team: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze, Duncan Matthews, Handre Pollard, Andre Warner, Nic de Jager, Hanro Liebenberg, Roelof Smit, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Frans van Wyk, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka, Trevor Nyakane, Jason Jenkins, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier, Marnitz Boshoff, Divan Rossouw.
Reds team: Aidan Toua, Filipo Daugunu, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Eto Nabuli, Jono Lance, James Tuttle, Caleb Timu, Liam Wright, Adam Korczyk, Kane Douglas, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper (captain). Replacements: Alex Mafi, JP Smith, Sef Fa'agase, Harry Hockings, Angus Scott-Young, Tate McDermott, Hamish Stewart, Duncan Paia'aua.