‘Bulls asked good questions on attack in bonus-point win’ over Bristol

Sergeal Petersen of the Vodacom Bulls during the 2023 United Rugby Championships match between Bulls and Connacht at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria

File. Jake White was delighted with how the Bulls didn’t stop attacking after a frustrating first half, but was careful not to get carried away by Saturday’s 31-17 Champions Cup bonus-point victory. Seen here: Sergeal Petersen. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jan 15, 2024


Jake White was delighted with how the Bulls didn’t stop attacking after a frustrating first half, but was careful not to get carried away by Saturday’s 31-17 Champions Cup bonus-point victory over the Bristol Bears in England.

The Pretoria side take on Bordeaux this Saturday at Loftus Versfeld (3pm kick-off) and are still not guaranteed of making the round of 16.

They were third on the Pool 1 log on 10 points ahead of last night’s game between Bordeaux and Saracens in France, with the top four advancing to the next round.

But considering their emphatic performance at Ashton Gate at the weekend, White will be confident that they will do enough in their last pool encounter to reach the play-offs.

Domination up front

The South African outfit dominated in the scrums from the start, but only had a 10-7 half-time lead to show for it as a couple of penalties inside the Bristol 22 halted their momentum.

They mixed brutal physicality with finesse on attack, with backs such as player of the match Devon Williams, Sergeal Petersen and Harold Vorster benefiting from the hard yards by Gerhard Steenekamp, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Reinhardt Ludwig and Mpilo Gumede.

Petersen, though, was the only tryscorer in the first half in addition to a David Kriel conversion and Johan Goosen penalty.

But the Bulls stuck to their ball-in-hand approach and were rewarded with tries by Khutha Mchunu, Elrigh Louw and Jan-Hendrik Wessels.

“At half-time, I said to the players, ‘Why don’t we play the way we do when the whistle goes?’ There was one passage of play where there was a line-out and we carried on playing, and it looked like our best passage of play,” White said afterwards.

“So my message at half-time was, ‘Don’t go into your shell now – start playing’. Every time we held onto the ball and every time we attacked their defence, we seemed to be asking good questions.

“I’m glad that in the second half, the players felt a little bit more comfortable on our attack.

“A 22-year-old hooker (Wessels), a 21-year-old tighthead lock (Ludwig) calling the line-outs …

“I’ve said many times that we are very young still and are still far from where we want to be.

“But when you get results like that and a performance like that as a collective, I’m sure it’s going to help us build for the next couple of years as well.

“There is no way that they won’t improve over the next couple of years. So, I’m really, really proud of how the whole team gelled.”

Missing bokke made the victory even sweeter

The fact that the Bulls produced such an excellent display away from home without their World Cup-winning Springboks Willie le Roux, KurtiLee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Marco van Staden made the win an even more satisfying one.

But even though the Bulls might need a win against Bordeaux to advance to the play-offs, White said that he won’t be calling on those Boks on Saturday as they need to have a mandatory five weeks off in a row, which has been imposed by SA Rugby.

His main injury concern for the Bordeaux clash is star tighthead prop Wilco Louw, who left the field in the first half with a shoulder injury – although White is happy with the depth in the position after Mchunu’s impressive outing as a replacement, as well as Mornay Smith’s experience.

“Our destiny is in our own hands now. We’ve got Bordeaux at home, and if we win that game, we will definitely end in the top two – which is a great way for us to go into the next round,” White said.

“So, an away win and a bonus point is something we will enjoy. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself as we have Bordeaux – who have played really well this season – next week at Loftus.”


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