Bulls focus on closing games out as playoffs near

rugby13 May 2024 05:10
By:Brenden Nel
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Players of Vodacom Bulls © Gallo Images

It may be easy to say that the two bonus points that Glasgow Warriors snatched at the death at Loftus Versfeld may come back to bite the Vodacom Bulls, but in a final two rounds that will require more than a bit of self-reflection, all Jake White’s side can do right now is concentrate on themselves.

The Bulls took the five points from the game with an impressive 60 minutes but allowed Glasgow to find their way back in the final 20 to keep the top spot on the log and kill off any outside chances the Bulls may have had of topping the log.

But that is one argument in the equation. With Glasgow now having both the Lions and Zebre to finish off their season, it is unlikely they will stumble along the way, and all White can do is try and secure the 10 points from the remaining two games of the season to ensure they finish as high as possible.

Those two games won’t be easy - and will come against the two teams that battled in Durban this past weekend when Benetton shocked the Sharks with an away victory to keep their hopes of the top eight alive.

That underlined the fact that Benetton won’t be an easy side to deal with, as they have shown on countless occasions this season, but the Bulls will be confident with another 2pm kickoff at altitude at home this week of taking the five points on offer.

The Bulls will then face a tough local derby against the Sharks in Durban which will be no easy game despite the injuries that the Sharks face after this weekend’s loss.

But first is Benetton, a side that have caused the Bulls headaches in the past and shocked them in the Rainbow Cup a few years back. Since then the games have been incredibly close between the two sides although the Bulls have shadowed the few that mattered.

This clash though, with more on the line, becomes a lot more influential in the state of the log. Which is why White knows as well that those two bonus points were costly for them.

“The two losing bonus points for Glasgow makes it difficult for us,” he said after the game.

“If they got nothing today , numerically there would have been an opportunity and it would have been easier. They have a game against Zebre, and I’m not knocking the Italian team. But in the last three years, they have struggled as a franchise.

“Therefore that could be a win for them and points, while we will have to face the Sharks, who might be Challenge Cup champions by then.

“Our other fixture is Benetton, who had our number a couple of years ago in the Rainbow Cup Final. A lot of those players play for Italy and won a couple of games in the Six Nations. So, I don’t for one minute think we have done enough.

“We have to make sure that we are playing our best rugby by the time we get to the backend of the competition and that is now.”

White said he was pleased with the win, but not the way the team had allowed Glasgow back in at the back end of the match.

“I’m sort of happy and sad – I know it sounds weird. For 60 minutes we were outstanding, probably some of the best rugby we played in a long time.

“Defensively we had their number, I just think we got naïve in the end with our plays. We started kicking contestables when we had the game set and match. Instead of kicking out, we give them line outs; giving them the ball at the halfway line and that is what they wanted.

“The intercept as well, we didn’t need to play there. I sort of hate myself for saying this but we should have been conservative at the backend of the game. It is one of those challenges that we have. We are such a good attacking team, but I don’t want to be too hard on my team.

“But it is a good example of when we got to have leadership on the field to call what we want to try and execute. It is interesting. Now I sort of challenge the leadership and on Monday we will go through different scenarios where we can create a game plan and theory where everyone is on board.

“There is no right or wrong, we just want all the players to be on the same page.”

That leadership will be crucial in the final two rounds as the Bulls try and finish as high as possible. And after a season where they allowed teams back in the final quarter in a number of games, if they find an answer it will only serve them well going into the playoffs.