Cape Town — While Gert Smal said it was “quite satisfying” to see the Bulls claim an away bonus-point win over the Pumas, he wants his team playing with a quicker tempo on attack going forward.
The former Springbok and Ireland assistant coach will field a very different side for Wednesday’s clash against Western Province at Cape Town Stadium (8pm kickoff), as most of the players who featured at Mbombela Stadium last Friday will prepare for Saturday’s United Rugby Championship showdown with the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm).
Bulls director of rugby Jake White will hope that the first-choice players will find their rhythm in the URC match against the Stormers, as they were well short of their best in the 33-19 Currie Cup bonus-point win over the Pumas.
While they earned a number of penalties in the scrums, they didn’t convert a series of attacking lineouts and driving mauls into tries.
Smal said that the Bulls had scored twice from mauls, but it was only really once — when hooker Johan Grobbelaar barged his way through the middle after a well-worked drive from the Pumas 22.
The other ‘maul’ touchdown Smal was referring to was the five-pointer from Man-of-the-Match Ruan Nortje, but that score came from a lineout-throw over the 15-metre line, with the forwards carrying the ball up until Nortje crossed the whitewash.
“When you come into a new set-up, and been out of South Africa for two-and-a-half years, and for only about two weeks’ preparation, it was quite satisfying to get an away bonus point,” Smal said.
“Our scrum was better, but it is still a work in progress. But I think we did quite well with our mauls as well. They didn’t really stop us — I think they went offsides a couple of times and were penalised, and it was penalty advantage for us. And we scored from one when we went straight through them.
“We actually scored from two mauls, so for us, it’s quite important that we always work on that, and that it always becomes a strength in South African rugby — working hard behind the scenes to make it even better.”
White is determined to see the Bulls playing an attacking style, even in the wet weather that they encountered against the Pumas, and he will hope that the handling skills come to the fore in the coming weeks.
“Conditions weren’t ideal, and we had a kind of different way that we wanted to approach it. Jake and myself, in any case, are on the same page, and I’ve been in Ireland for over five years and know exactly how they think as well,” Smal said.
“Because of the weather conditions, I think the game slowed down quite a bit, but ja, we want to play a faster game and want to make it a little more attractive for everybody. Hopefully we can just improve on this performance.
“The positive for me was that we were quite calm and composed just to get the bonus point that we needed, and that there are no injuries. We know that it’s still early days, so in all aspects of the game, what we want to do is just improve and become better, play a faster game and make it a little bit more attractive.”
Most of the Bulls’ big guns from the Pumas match will sit out the Currie Cup north-south derby against WP on Wednesday, but with the considerable depth that White has created at Loftus Versfeld, it should still be a competitive side at Cape Town Stadium.
“The team that’s going to go to Western Province is going to be quite different, but it’s very exciting. It’s a nice group of players – couple of youngsters, couple of older players. And I can’t wait for the opportunity to see them play again,” said Smal.