Johannesburg - Once considered the vanguard of South Africa’s assault on the United Rugby Championship (URC) this season, the Bulls’ campaign has seemingly started to slowly disintegrate before them.
The men from Pretoria find themselves at the foot of the URC table having won just one of their six matches played so far; while being spared the ignominy of the woodenspoon at the moment due to the poor performances of Italian outfit Zebre and the fact that the log currently isn’t a true reflection of the tournament.
Nevertheless, the defeat to the Stormers this past weekend will have hurt and Bulls prop Jacques van Rooyen admitted that after the loss, the senior members of the squad had a coming-together to rectify their shortcomings and tackle their issues.
“We were disappointed with the performance we had on the weekend,” Van Rooyen explained. “The Stormers played well and started well.
“We took a good, hard and long look at ourselves and the way that we wanted to play. Obviously, we didn’t get to do that. We have tried to get back to the basics and to make sure that everyone is on par and everyone is on the same page to make sure that in the following games coming up, we are up to standard, that we start well and not make life difficult for ourselves by unnecessarily chasing games.”
Much will be expected of Van Rooyen on Saturday, if he is selected for the clash against the Emirates Lions at Emirates Airline Park (kick-off 3pm). The Bulls have something of a crisis at tighthead, having lost Mornay Smith to injury this past weekend, but also Trevor Nyakanye to a move abroad.
Historically, Van Rooyen has always found himself on the other side of the scrum at loosehead. However, with limited options in the No 3 jersey available to Bulls coach Jake White, Van Rooyen found himself scrummaging against Springbok Steven Kitschoff this past weekend, while this weekend could be up against the unheralded but equally powerful Sti Sithole.
Not that Van Rooyen is shying away from the challenge that his former team will pose at scrumtime.
Said the 35-year-old: “I think I have made the mind-shift.
“I’ve spoken to the coaches a while back and they also said they are keen to keep me at tighthead. I’ve made the mind-shift, so I like to see myself as a tighthead now and no longer as a loosehead. The coaches know that anytime they need me to go back to loosehead, it won't be an issue.
“I just want to play and wherever the team needs me to play, I will be ready to play. For now the heart and mind has changed. As a tighthead prop, I’m eating an extra plate of food at every lunch and dinner to make sure the weight stays up,” he said with a chuckle.
Even so, Van Rooyen is under no illusions that the scrum battle this weekend will be a tough one. The Lions arguably sport the best set-piece amongst the SA franchises, and with the Bulls thin at prop, the Joburges will no doubt see it as an area they can target.
“We know the Lions of the last couple of years have been a good scrummaging pack,” Van Rooyen continued, “and that they like to attack you on your ball, as well as their own feed.
“Every single scrum will be a battle. We have also been working hard on what we want to do better and to make sure that we come to the party, to make sure we secure our ball and try to put them under pressure on their feeds as well.”