Cape Town — Rugby is often regarded as a ‘macho’ game, so when a team concede that they couldn’t handle the physicality from the opposition, it is a pretty damning statement.
But Glasgow coach Danny Wilson didn’t hold back in assessing where his team lost the game in the 29-17 United Rugby Championship defeat to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
“I felt, if I’m honest, that was another level of physicality. We got taught a lesson in terms of physicality, which led to us coming second at scrum, second at defending driving lineouts and breakdown,” Wilson said after the match.
“The physical element of the game was far better from the Bulls was far better than where we were, and that hurt us. On top of that, we had several injuries that made us extremely disjointed, and put people in roles that they would never normally do.
“So, that kind of affected us as well. But first and foremost, the Bulls’ physicality tonight was a good lesson for us.”
It was actually the visitors who made the more impressive start as they took the ball through a number of phases at times, and scored the opening points via a penalty try, after the Bulls collapsed a rampaging driving maul.
Elrigh Louw was also given a yellow card for that infringement, and it looked like it could be a long night for the Bulls.
But the Pretoria side rolled up their collective sleeves and climbed into the Glasgow pack, and gradually got on top to score four tries for a vital bonus point.
“We started the game well and scored a good try, and we missed several opportunities to score more. The physicality at times drained us — we got isolated in carries and got turned over… Huge men, strong over the ball, and we struggled to clean them off the ball and be able to get pace in the game,” Wilson said.
“We rely on getting pace in the game, and as you saw at the end, when we can get pace in the game, we can play some decent rugby.
“But we struggled to do that today… and after many attacks, we got turned over. On top of that, we were dealing with a dominant scrum and a driving lineout and gave away too many penalties.
“We pushed them into their 22 and we would normally steal lineouts and cause problems, but we conceded penalties. We’ve got to grow our squad to match that physicality.”
Glasgow are in seventh position on 50 points, and face a final-round shoot-out with Edinburgh on May 21 for a quarter-final spot – and if they make the playoffs, they may have to return to South Africa.
It would not be a trip they would look forward to after conceding bonus-point losses to the Stormers (32-7) and Bulls (29-17), and Wilson hopes his team can improve in future.
“It’s definitely tougher, the challenge of coming to South Africa. At the moment, South African sides have home game after home game, which allows for a fair bit of building momentum — with some very good players back available to them,” he said.
“So, it’s a massive challenge coming here: there’s no doubt about that. Great places to play, brilliant stadiums, good opposition. It’s not a great experience after the two losses we’ve had, but it’s a great experience in terms of coming and trying to prepare against this quality away from home.
“We’ve had our successes at home against the South African teams (beating the Sharks 35-24 and Lions 13-9 last October), but a lot of us in this league have struggled out here — especially against a team that has been at home for a long period of time and building momentum.
“When we come out here next time, hopefully those learnings will be in place for us to challenge more.”