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Bulls have ‘resilience, grown a lot’ despite loss to Scarlets

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Cape Town – Although the Bulls won just two out of seven games since mid-December during what Jake White described as “two months of hell”, assistant coach Chris Rossouw believes that the Pretoria side will reap the benefits in the months to come.

The Bulls engineered a superb turnaround in the second half against the Scarlets in Llanelli on Friday night, but just missed out on a remarkable victory as they went down 37-28.

They were trailing 27-7 after just 32 minutes at the Parc y Scarlets stadium, but found their touch in the second half to make it 30-28 with 17 minutes left.

They had a great chance to take the lead soon after that with a penalty, but captain Ruan Nortje went for touch to set up a lineout, and it didn’t work out as the Scarlets defence held strong.

The home side made tackle after tackle and were rewarded for their fighting spirit when fullback Johnny McNicholl clinched the victory with the bonus-point try with four minutes to go.

The result completed a rigorous schedule for the Bulls since mid-December, where they played just one out of the seven games across all competitions at Loftus Versfeld – when they beat Exeter Chiefs.

They lost to Exeter (away), the Stormers (away), Sharks (away), Lyon (away) and Scarlets (away), and beat Exeter (home) and the Dragons (away).

While that record doesn’t look great, the Bulls were still in fourth on the URC log with 40 points after 13 games before yesterday’s matches, and will hope to make the most of their three-week break before their next two encounters at Loftus against the Stormers (February 18) and Lions (March 4).

Rossouw – who took over the head coach duties in recent weeks while White recovered from his abdominal operation – feels that the difficulties with touring took its toll, while the Bulls also had to rotate their squad and stand down Springboks Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie for the Scarlets match.

“The last two months have been a tough journey, but the last month has actually been a great one for us. As a team, I think we’ve grown a lot. We did a lot of reflecting after December, and there is some stuff we worked on,” Rossouw said yesterday before travelling back to South Africa.

“I thought this month, (we could see) there is a resilience in this team. It’s not totally showing on the scoreboard, but there is a resilience in this team – no matter what the score is, we can come back.

“There are one or two things we need to sort out, but the team is in a good space… That second half showed that, the way we came back and stayed composed. We actually dominated upfront, especially with our ball-carriers and forwards – the combination with the scrum and the maul was very good.

“It’s just a pity that we couldn’t convert that, but that’s the learning. The positive out of this game – and this month – is that in the four games, we had minimal penalties. Last night it was nine again, Exeter was 11 when we conceded two late at the buzzer… Against the Dragons, it was also nine or something like that.

“We must get away from the point where we blame the ref. We were happy with the ref. I think sometimes it’s the easy way out, just to start blaming whatever the excuse is.

“So, that’s actually one of the things we work hard on, and not blaming anyone or making excuses. The first half, we couldn’t manage that zone where we need to get away from. We played a lot of rugby in our own half.

“I think our defence has come a long way, and even though the scoreboard doesn’t show it, you can only defend the positions you put yourself in.

“Basically what happened this weekend was that we put ourselves in bad positions, and on the night, the Scarlets were unbelievable. I thought their transition from defence into attack was outstanding, and whenever they got the opportunities, they just put us away.”

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Wing Stravino Jacobs, who scored the second try, went off with what Rossouw thought is a likely broken leg, so he is set to be sidelined for a while.

Rossouw said White, though, has been recovering well, with Bulls president Willem Strauss also stating yesterday that the former Bok coach will be back in the hot seat for the Stormers game.

Maybe we could have taken the three points – Rossouw as Bulls unable to finish off Scarlets, Jacobs injured


Scarlets 37 – Tries: Sam Davies, Kemsley Mathias, Gareth Davies, Johnny McNicholl. Conversions: Sam Costelow (4). Penalties: Costelow (3).

Bulls 28 – Tries: Zak Burger, Stravino Jacobs, Cyle Brink, Simphiwe Matanzima. Conversions: Chris Smith (4).


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