PRETORIA – Testing their depth ahead of the Super Rugby campaign, the Bulls beat the Lions 21-17 in a warm-up match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria yesterday.
Both teams fielded untested fringe players with a sprinkling of first-choice campaigners.
There was plenty of rust on display, but both coaches would have taken a few lessons from the match, with some players emerging as possible replacements when injuries inevitably hit during the long season.
The Bulls dominated the first half going into the halftime break with a 21-10 lead before a lacklustre second half.
Their tries came courtesy of Blitzboks acquisition Rosko Specman, Franco Naudé and JT Jackson, while Stean Pienaar, Morné van der Berg and Tyrone Green crossed the whitewash for the Lions.
The visitors scored a late converted try to bring an error-riddled second half to an end.
The Pretoria franchise lost concentration at the end of each half, allowing the Lions to score on or just before the whistle.
The Bulls would be happy with their defensive efforts, but made too many unforced errors inside the Lions’ quarter.
Former Bok wing Cornal Hendricks made his long-awaited return to rugby following a three-year hiatus after recovering from health issues, but saw little of the ball to really show what he is capable of.
Bulls coach Pote Human was a happy man in getting his Super Rugby tenure off to a winning start.
“Especially in the first half, I thought we played really good rugby, except for the soft moment just before halftime,” Human said.
“In the second half, we put them under pressure, but we couldn’t finish; the discipline cost us and kept them in the game.”
Human said they conceded too many penalties, which they need to remedy before the start of the Super Rugby season.
“It is definitely a concern. In the first 25 minutes, we didn’t get a single penalty, then suddenly eight in a row. And in the second half, we also conceded too many,” Human said.
“But we’ll address it. It is good it happened today, so that we can work on it.”
Bulls flank Ruan Steenkamp had a storming game in the No 6 jersey, while the midfield combination of Jackson and Naudé also made an impression.
On the Lions side, Gianni Lombard was in top form at flyhalf, while their centre pairing of Tyrone Green and Wandisile Simelane also turned in good performances.