Joey Mongalo excited for Chris Smith, but Bulls wary of Sharks’ attack
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CAPE TOWN – The Blue Bulls have conceded 31, 36 and 26 points in their last three games, and defence coach Joey Mongalo says it’s something his team “need to get better at”. They will face the Sharks in tomorrow’s Currie Cup final.
The last two games – the 48-31 semi-final win over Western Province and the 39-36 victory over the Free State Cheetahs – were both at Loftus, with the 33-26 success against the Pumas coming at Mbombela Stadium.
The Bulls gave away five tries each against the Cheetahs and Province, although the Pretoria side’s attack has been firing with Johan Goosen at flyhalf, with six, five and five touchdowns in their last three games.
But Mongalo, who was previously at the Lions and was a flyhalf in his playing days, believes that the nature of the last few matches contributed to the high scores.
He also pointed out that the Bulls have one of the better points-conceded records in the league stage, with 260 – with only the Sharks (223) and Pumas (256) ahead of them.
“If you take it in context, which is always an important point for me – defence is always the result of quite a few things. One of them is continuity, the other is experience. If you look at our scores at half-time, those are scores that you would be kind of content with. This past weekend, we crossed at 38-12, for example,” Mongalo said.
“As changes happen, obviously then disconnections can happen because it’s guys who haven’t defended together for a long time. It’s not an excuse at all – it’s just context. Is it concerning? Yes, it is something that I don’t pride myself in.
“If you look at our record over the past year, it’s things that we can be proud of. But the scoreline over the past two weeks is something defensively that we are not proud of as a team, and know we need to get better at, for sure. It’s a much more attacking-breakdown-focused tournament, so it’s much more of an open game.”
Mongalo added that one of the areas that had received greater scrutiny from the referees in the Currie Cup was tacklers who did not roll away, and that the Bulls got more defensive penalties last season compared with this season.
Marius van der Westhuizen has been appointed as the referee for the final, and while he has his critics and supporters on social media, Mongalo said the Bulls would respect him, and that coach Jake White would meet with the match officials beforehand.
But whatever happens on that front, the Bulls will need to counter the Sharks’ multifaceted attacking style, as well as operate without Goosen – who has contracted Covid-19 – which will see Chris Smith named at flyhalf when White announces the team today.
“Chris Smith played 20 minutes plus extra time in the final last year. He’s had so much time off the bench, and he’s started games. Chris Rossouw (attack coach) runs his attack in such a way that people are able to come in and out of that system quite well,” Mongalo said.