Cape Town – It was almost too easy at one stage for the Bulls, and nearly going down in the end to Edinburgh was a valuable lesson learnt by the players, said coach Jake White about Saturday’s 33-31 United Rugby Championship win at Loftus Versfeld.
Edinburgh’s Upington-born fullback Henry Immelman had a chance to clinch a victory with a penalty after the hooter, but missed the target from about 45 metres to hand Marcell Coetzee’s team a full house of log points.
It should never have come to that, though, as the Pretoria outfit were 15-0 ahead in the first quarter, but they allowed the visitors back into the game and went into halftime just 15-14 in front.
Edinburgh eventually led 31-30 with 10 minutes to go after left wing Damien Hoyland’s try, but Morné Steyn remained ice-cool as usual to slot a late angled penalty.
“You’ve got to work hard in these competitions. The margins are very small. Literally that kick (from Immelman) was worth three (log) points… we would’ve got two (points) – we get five. That’s the message I gave the players. Don’t underestimate how tough this competition is,” White said.
“I just thought, not taking anything away from their performance, every time we got a little bit of a buffer, we made one or two silly mistakes.
“I think, to be fair, the players felt that as well (that it would be an easy win). When they got 15 points up, they scored relatively easily from the pressure they built, and it’s human – maybe they thought it will just happen on its own.
“So, it’s a lesson you learn, but it’s easier to learn that lesson when you’ve got a win under the belt as opposed to a loss.”
Edinburgh, boasting a number of Scottish internationals – including former South Africans Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel – upset the Bulls’ rhythm by ensuring the game had a number of stoppages as well.
But the home side were also guilty of missing a number of one-on-one tackles, and Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham sped through for a hat-trick.
“Obviously that was an area that we spoke about at halftime as well. We let them just get through the (defensive) line. Once or twice in the second half, we put them backwards, which is the way we wanted to defend, and we made it easier for ourselves,” White said.
“But it is an area that we spoke about, and they are the kind of team that – if you miss one or two tackles – they’ll punish you, offload and keep the ball alive.
“I just said to their coach (Mike Blair) now: let’s not underestimate (the fact that) we’ve got a lock there (Ruan Nortje) who’s got one Test match, and their whole tight-five have all played Test-match rugby. They probably, as a pack, have got more Test-match experience than we have URC experience.
“So, we also need to be mindful of the fact that it’s not a team that you just think that you can get here and beat them convincingly.
“I thought they managed the time really well, the Edinburgh guys. Changing boots, coming off all the time, going back on… At times I was a bit frustrated, because we would’ve liked to have sped it up a bit more, and kept the ball in play – and maybe keep them (pinned down) a little more.
“But it’s funny how it works… Sometimes, by them slowing it up, they ran out of time at the end as well. Sometimes you can catch out yourself. If there were another three or four minutes – if they hadn’t slowed the game up in the middle parts of the game…
“Where do you get a guy changing boots one minute after halftime when he’s 15 minutes in the change-room to change his boots (which Schoeman did)?
“Look, they are a clever side, they are well-coached. We lost to them last year, and now we get a result against them at home, and that’s positive for us.”
Next up for the Bulls are Irish side Connacht – who lost 38-15 to the Stormers – on Friday at Loftus Versfeld (6.30pm kickoff).
Bulls 33 – Tries: Johan Grobbelaar, Elrigh Louw, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalties: Smith (2), Morné Steyn (1).
Edinburgh 31 – Tries: Charlie Savala, Darcy Graham (3), Damien Hoyland. Conversions: Mark Bennett (3).