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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Seven of the best, but Bulls aim to stop leaking tries against Cardiff

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Johannesburg – Bulls fans would have been rejoicing after watching their heroes run in seven tries in the 43-26 victors over the Ospreys last weekend.

The Pretoria side played some thrilling rugby at Loftus Versfeld, with one of the highlights being experienced flank Nizaam Carr scoring a superb individual try to set up a Man-of-the-Match award.

There was pleasing fluidity on attack between backs and forwards as they wrapped up the bonus point for a 31-14 halftime lead, and it could be argued that Jake White’s team could have scored even more touchdowns if their execution and decision-making had been better at times.

But on the other side of the coin, they leaked four more five-pointers, which took their season tally to 26 – the most among the top seven sides on the United Rugby Championship log.

It is something that has to improve considerably ahead of Saturday’s clash against Cardiff, who are flying after pulling off a superb 35-0 whitewash of the Sharks in Durban last Sunday, which led to coach Sean Everitt being let go on Monday.

“It’s still the same. It’s just small certain things that we as a group identified, that we’ve got to get better at. There is a defensive system that Coach Jake implemented, and we’ve got to try and be better in certain areas when it comes to defence,” defence coach Pine Pienaar said from Loftus on Tuesday.

“We identified where we were under pressure at certain stages in the Ospreys game, so it’s focused on us and how we can be better. Different sides pose different questions defensively, and we’ve got to be better.

“It’s about being better with how we build pressure – and that’s with or without the ball. Getting ourselves into good positions on the field, where we give ourselves an opportunity to maybe get into their 22 and convert.

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“And when they are in our half or 22, seeing that out and creating more pressure, a turnover.

“Cardiff play a superbly well-balanced game against the Sharks, so we’ve got to be spot-on on Saturday evening.

“For us to be able to play a pressure game on both sides of the ball… Our attacking play was really outstanding on the day, and our defence is about making sure we feed the attack.

“In our defence, we need to build more pressure, and if there are opportunities to create turnovers, we must use those. It worked well in the first half – we defended well, we were busy at the breakdowns and generated turnovers, and our attack could enjoy that.”

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One man who can make a considerable difference in that regard is Marco van Staden, who rejoined the Bulls yesterday after being on Springbok duty against England at the weekend.

Van Staden is a specialist fetcher, and could bring greater balance to the loose trio, where Carr may be better suited at No 8, with Elrigh Louw at blindside.

But Pienaar said that he was not sure if all the returning Bok squad members – Van Staden, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Johan Goosen – will be available for selection for the Cardiff match.

Arendse has been a regular Bok starter, and also attended a Champions Cup launch event in London on Tuesday, so he is unlikely to play on Saturday, but the others could still feature.


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