Vodacom Blue Bulls hooker Gary Botha admitted that being outplayed at the breakdown has been a big reason for their inconsistency this season.
The Bulls face the Sharks in a vital Absa Currie Cup round two encounter at Absa Stadium Durban without a recognised fetcher in their ranks, and Botha said that they had identified the breakdown as a facet of play that needed serious improvement.
“The breakdown has been contested really well by all the teams this season and we’ve exposed ourselves at times by wanting to play a little too loose,” he told Keo.co.za.
“When our players have got themselves isolated, the opposition has really made us pay. Teams have done their homework and exposed us.”
Botha hinted that his side might look to keep the ball closer to a tight five who have failed to impose themselves in recent weeks and forgo a recent, relatively adventurous approach, so uncharacteristic of the Pretoria-based side.
“Sometimes you have to play winning rugby and winning rugby is often not pretty,” he said.
“But I think what we’ve been lacking recently is the balance,” he explained. “Knowing when to keep it tight and when to give it some air will be key for us and it’ll be a lesson we’ll have to learn quickly.”
The lack of a specialist open-side flanker has long been a moot point from the Bulls perspective, and though Botha acknowledged the benefits of having a specialist in the role, he is obviously fed up with hearing that it’s the reason they’re not as dominant as they have been in previous seasons.
“I think people have blown that issue up too much. What you need to understand is that the game is constantly changing and evolving.
“It’s at a point now where even your inside centre is vital at the breakdowns, especially in midfield, because if you turnover possession there the defence is less structured and it creates an attacking opportunity for you,” he said.
In their last encounter at Loftus the Sharks, lead by an inspired performance by open-side flank Warren Britz, devastated their hosts at the breakdown. But Botha insisted that the Bulls bore no psychological scars from the 37-28 defeat.
“We’ll approach this as a totally new game with a new opportunity to stake a claim for a home semi-final,” he said, before suggesting the the first round result had as much to do with their inability to capatilise at crucial times than it did with a good Sharks performance.
“We were 16-3 up at one stage in the first half and we let it slip. We will be looking to rectify mistakes we’ve made in that game and others.
“And we’ll definitely come hard at the Sharks on Saturday.”
By Ryan Vrede