Vodacom Blue Bulls technical specialist John McFarland believes they are starting to reach their full potential at a crucial stage in the Absa Currie Cup.
The Bulls saw off a spirited Griquas side 60-22 in Kimberley with a clinical all-round display and in doing so, virtually secured a place in the semi-final.
â€œWe went there knowing that they would be a really tough side to beat at home and they showed that by keeping the score close in the first half,â€ McFarland told Keo.co.za.
â€œOur execution was much better in the second half and we scored 60 points in Kimberley. No other team has done that this year, so it tells you a lot about our current form.â€
He praised the Pretoria outfit for their collective effort and highlighted their resolve in the face of an early barrage as a major positive.
â€œThe team did brilliantly to keep their composure under pressure. In games against the smaller unions it is easy to lose your structure but we stuck to the game-plan despite them getting some momentum early on.
â€œThe most impressive thing was that we outscored them 45-7 after being level at 15-all.â€
The Bulls have been criticised for their erratic form this season but McFarland offered mitigating factors for that and simultaneously sounded a caution to their opponents for the remainder of the tournament.
â€œThe problem we had all year was the amount of Springboks we produced. That didnâ€™t allow for the consistency in selection that we might have liked and their unavailability weakened our team significantly,â€ he said.
â€œAny team will miss players like Pierre Spies, Akona Ndungane, Wynand Olivier, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Pedrie Wannenberg. The difference in our performance is plain to see after the return of our Springboks and weâ€™ll keep getting stronger as the tournament progresses.â€
The Bulls host the Vodacom Cheetahs in a crucial encounter that, if won, will secure a home semi-final place. McFarland suggested that despite the perceived differences in playing styles of the two teams, the Pretoria- and Bloemfontein-based unions had more in common than was thought.
â€œThey play Bulls rugby,â€ he said. â€œLook at their game against the Sharks on Saturday for example. They punted for territory and put pressure on the Sharks counter-attackers through solid defence.
â€œOn attack they relied on their dominance in the lineouts to lay the platform for three driving mauls which resulted in tries. Thatâ€™s traditional Bulls rugby,â€ he reiterated .
While he was guarded about the tactics the Bulls would look to employ he did say that they wouldnâ€™t stray to far away from the forward-orientated game that they were renowned for.
â€œThe Cheetahs are a well rounded side and pose a threat in the backline and their pack. Weâ€™ll stick to the formula that has worked for us so far: Take away their strengths when we are on defence and expose the vulnerabilities on attack.â€
By Ryan Vrede