SA’s champion Bulls starting to ’find their feet’ against European competition
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Cape Town - It may have been a case of third time lucky for the Bulls against Cardiff, but captain Marcell Coetzee feels that his side are now understanding what it takes to beat the European sides in the United Rugby Championship.
The Bulls lost 31-3 to Leinster and 34-7 to Connacht in the opening two weeks in Ireland, but pulled off a 29-19 victory at Cardiff Arms Park last Saturday.
It looked like it may be a third loss in a row as coach Jake White’s team were trailing 16-3 at one stage, but they scored 26 points in the second half for a much-needed triumph.
Now they’re getting ready for the final match of the trip against Edinburgh at the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday (6.15pm kickoff), and Coetzee believes his side are now in tune with the requirements up north.
“I would say it’s a bit more positive after previous weeks. Things didn’t go our way the previous two weeks, and we’re a team that pride ourselves on high standards. We want to be consistent in winning wherever we play,” the Springbok loose forward said from Cardiff yesterday.
“We managed to get the win this weekend, and there’s definitely new energy. Also the fact that we know it’s our last week on tour, we play Edinburgh and we come home again. Plenty to play for, and just a lot of energy and excitement after that result.
“It was a whole new tournament, and we didn’t know what to expect as a big group. You can see they are really finding their feet now in terms of the circumstances, the culture and referees. It is a process, and hopefully we’ve got it right now going into Saturday. I think we’re going into the right direction.”
White expressed his unhappiness with the 4G pitch in Cardiff, saying he wasn’t a fan of the mixture of grass and a synthetic surface, and now the Bulls will have to contend with it once more in Edinburgh.
Coetzee was philosophical about the matter, but expects the Scottish outfit to stretch the Bulls defence with ball-in-hand.
“I managed to play a bit on 4G pitches while I was at Ulster, and look, the body does take a bit longer to recover – on the joints in particular. But it is what it is, and you have to adapt. That’s rugby, and you just want to play,” the 30-year-old flank said.
“It’s definitely added to the tempo of the game – the game is a lot more quicker, and decision-making shorter (time-wise). That’s the way these guys want to play rugby.
“From playing against them for Ulster previously, I know the coaches well and the players. They’ve got a very good set-piece foundation and good kicking game plan, but what I noticed from last week is that they have brought in a lot of tempo.
“That is something Gregor Townsend is trying to implement in both teams, and he brought that to the British & Irish Lions. But if we can adapt to that and shut that down, then it will be even game on the day.”
Meanwhile, the Bulls finally confirmed yesterday that Morné Steyn will join the squad for the Edinburgh match following Johan Goosen’s knee injury against Cardiff.
Goosen is flying back to South Africa, and will have a scan to determine the severity of the injury.