Cape Town – Bulls captain Cornal Hendricks admitted that the “synergy between the forwards and the backs was not that great” in Friday night’s Currie Cup victory over the Pumas at Mbombela Stadium.
The defending champions had to grind it out for a long time on a wet night in Mpumalanga, but managed to pull off a 33-19 bonus-point win after scoring their fourth try in the 79th minute through replacement loose forward WJ Steenkamp.
However, it was not the most accomplished performance from the Pretoria side, even though most of the United Rugby Championship players were on show.
They battled to generate go-forward off their lineout mauls, where the Pumas were able to stop their drives, while the backline were hardly able to string a few passes together on attack.
But Bulls coach Gert Smal would’ve been delighted by the impressive fighting spirit his side portrayed to dominate in the scrums and produce three second-half tries – through Ruan Nortje, Johan Grobbelaar and Steenkamp – to claim the extra log point, after Embrose Papier scored an opportunistic five-pointer in the first quarter.
“It was tough conditions tonight. We always knew that it was going to be tough coming to Nelspruit (Mbombela), playing against the Pumas,” Hendricks told SuperSport in a post-match TV interview.
“But let’s give credit to the whole team… The synergy between the forwards and the backs was not that great, but credit to the forwards today for pulling us through tonight. Very proud.
“The weather was looking good earlier, but we are a team that adapt, and when it started to rain, we knew exactly what we wanted to do.
“Credit to the coaches as well. As a collective team, I think we all did a great job.
“We are playing against a quality side (Western Province) next week (Wednesday) in Cape Town, and are looking forward to it. Still a few things to work on.”
Lock Nortje was chosen as the Man of the Match for a typically busy performance, especially in the loose, where he threw his body about in defence especially.
“It’s always a very tough game here at Mbombela Stadium, so I’m very grateful for the five points,” the second-rower told SuperSport.
“Especially since we had some tough times in the last few games, so credit to the forward pack for stepping up in that department (set-pieces).”
The Pumas would’ve hoped to repeat last season’s win over the Bulls at home, but it proved to be a long night for Jimmy Stonehouse’s team as their scrum went backwards, while they gave opposition flyhalf Chris Smith too many goal-kicking opportunities.
“Our discipline let us down tonight. With a quality team like the Bulls, you can’t give so many penalties away because as soon as you make all your mistakes, they just thrive off it – and that’s what made them so good tonight,” Pumas captain Willie Engelbrecht said to SuperSport.
“If we can work on our discipline and our set-piece, I think we have a good chance (against the Lions next Wednesday). We should just keep on going, and the boys should just believe in themselves.”