Bulls locks Lood de Jager (No 5) and RG Snyman hug each other in victory, while Beauden Barrett (No 22) consoles teammate Blade Thomson at Loftus on Saturday night. Photo: Catherine Kotze/BackpagePix
Bulls locks Lood de Jager (No 5) and RG Snyman hug each other in victory, while Beauden Barrett (No 22) consoles teammate Blade Thomson at Loftus on Saturday night. Photo: Catherine Kotze/BackpagePix
Bulls replacement scrumhalf Embrose Papier sidesteps Hurricanes prop Alex Fidow during the 21-19 victory. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
Bulls replacement scrumhalf Embrose Papier sidesteps Hurricanes prop Alex Fidow during the 21-19 victory. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

PRETORIA – New Bulls rugby coach John Mitchell has hailed the fresh, attacking approach displayed by his charges in their 21-19 victory over the Hurricanes in their Super Rugby opener at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

His Kiwi counterpart Chris Boyd, however, struggled to find any positives from Canes’ performance.

It was the first time since 2013 that the Bulls have started the competition with a win.

“It wasn’t pretty out there, but the guys fought hard and showed more endurance,” said Mitchell, who took over the coaching reins from predecessor Nollis Marais last year.

“We always knew that we were ready. It was just a matter of deciding whether we could go the distance and get through our untidy periods.

“Games will always be full of mistakes, it’s just how you respond to them and get yourself out of those situations.”

Not only did the Pretoria side end on the right side of the scoreboard, but they also outshone their opponents in the statistics department, with a higher percentage of carries and offloads. 

“We were a really good combination. There were some really good aspects of play. We just put it all together and began to build pressure with the ball, and asked a lot more questions of them,” said Mitchell.

He was particularly impressed with the way the Bulls kept the ball alive in one-on-one situations.

“Some guys may not be on the same page in that area yet, but even in training, they are encouraged to keep the ball alive in the one-on-ones.”

Mitchell said the victory was a good foundation for the season and reward for the work done in the pre-season, but cautioned that it was all part of a process the Bulls are going through after a number of lean years at Loftus.

“We’ll have our bad days as well and fall short – that is the nature of the trade. For now, it’s back to work and to make sure we always have enough tension around learning, working hard and never being satisfied.”

Mitchell’s opposite number Boyd was grappling to find any positives to take away from their visit to Pretoria.

“In the period of time that I have been coaching, I don’t think I have ever been involved in a game where we’ve prepared so well and delivered so little,” he fumed.

“I don’t mind losing, but to play so incredibly poorly is really frustrating.

 I don’t think anybody would be proud of their performance today. Collectively, this is well short of what we expect from one another.”

The Hurricanes, who were beaten by the Lions at Ellis Park in last season’s semi-final, again struggled to adapt to the highveld altitude and ran out of legs against a well-organised Bulls outfit.

“We had been preparing to play the Bulls at altitude in the pre-season, if not earlier than that, because we knew what we were faced with,” concluded Boyd.

African News Agency (ANA)