PRETORIA – While Sharks coach Robert du Preez was spitting fire calling his team's performance, or rather lack thereof, “embarrassing”, Bulls coach John Mitchell and his team aren’t getting carried away with their recent successive victories over the Stormers and Sharks.
As much as the win against the Stormers two weeks ago would have done the men in blue’s confidence a world of good, it was their 40-10 win against the Sharks, their sixth match unbeaten against the Durban side, that will inspire and ignite hope that the three time champions can make the play-offs.
The win for the Bulls was not only monumental in catapulting them to second spot in the South African conference, but still 11 points adrift of the table-topping Lions, it was the ruthlessness in their play that would have sent out a warning to other teams still to play them that gone are the days of them being the whipping boys of the competition.
But Mitchell is wary of getting ahead of himself and is looking at getting some consistency in games to come with his winning blueprint which has brought back plenty of optimism amongst the long suffering Loftus faithful and players as well.
“We’ll just take one week at a time, we still have a long way to go. But at least we are starting to see a blueprint where there is confidence and understanding. We are starting to win the minds and hearts of our fans which is important because they’ve gone through a lot of sacrifice and hard times.
Ultimately it is up to us to make sure that we serve something bigger than ourselves, if we can continue to fight and play with that kind of spirit then we will win and make our fans proud,” said Mitchell in the aftermath of their resounding victory in Durban.
Winning aside, it is the manner in which the Bulls are now approaching their games that speaks volumes of the confidence within the side and as much as they want to play with more ball in hand, they are understanding that possession is nothing without set-piece dominance and a steely defence.
Even after conceding the first points of the match, the Bulls diligently went about their graft, first by winning the arm-wrestle amongst the forwards then trusting their rock solid defence to thwart any attacks by the Sharks before unleashing their elusive backs to finish the job off.
“When teams come back from overseas it’s a hard week and we experienced it before with the Stormers. We weren’t too flash, we gutsed it out and dug in. Sometimes you try and put anxiety into the home team as quick as you can and I think we did that well.
The conditions played a part as well so we always thought that we might have to go to our plan B with the rain but I was particularly pleased with the way the drivers of the game Polly (Handre Pollard), Ivan (Van Zyl) and Warrick (Gelant) how they actually managed the conditions very well. We got a lesson in Christchurch in heavy rain by playing too much rugby in the middle of the field. We looked to exploit space on the edge, we felt there was opportunities in their back field.
“I think we are starting to enjoy defence and the guys really own it. It’s more than just a system, there is personal pride in it. But it also feeds attack and we need to keep getting better at identifying parts in the game where it feeds our attack and that is where confidence comes to score tries. And you have to score tries in this competition,” Mitchell said.
Much of the damage would have been done in the trench warfare that had ensued between both packs and the icing on the cake was left to Springbok fullback Gelant to showcase his skills with a hat-trick of tries that sealed victory.
Saturday’s try fest was Gelant’s second consecutive hat-trick at King’s Park after having done the same during the Currie Cup last year.
Mitchell is pleased that his star back has returned to form having struggled to set the scene alight so far this year.
“Warrick had a great week of preparation and he is in a great space. He was brilliant. A lot of young men go through different pressures from time to time and he’s obviously just been through some tough performances in trying to find form.
He looked like he enjoyed himself on the playground which is the one thing he can control. It’s good to see him back in form,” added Mitchell.
The Bulls will enjoy two consecutive home matches starting with the Rebels on Saturday before facing the Highlanders.