Bulls shift to overdrive

Vodacom Blue Bulls backline coach Mike Bayly warned the Vodacom Cheetahs that they were only now beginning to reach their full attacking potential.

The much vaunted Bulls forwards have cast a shadow over their underrated backline in recent seasons, but Bayly believes that’s about to change.

“In the past people have suggested that we are a one dimensional side, but if you look at our recent record of try scorers you’ll see that that is a fallacy,” he told keo.co.za.

The Bulls have scored 25 tries in their last three matches, with 17 of those by backline players. Bayly believes this will become the more the norm as the backline become accustomed to each other’s styles of play.

“At the moment we are relying on individual performances like Wynand’s [Olivier] effort against the Sharks,” he said. “As soon as the guys gel, and I believe that will happen soon, you’ll witness really dangerous unit.”

Olivier has failed to recover from an ankle injury (sustained against Griquas last Saturday) ahead of the crucial Absa Currie Cup fixture against the Cheetahs. This means the selectors have again turned to the burly Dries Scholtz to cover.

Scholtz’s limitations as an inside-centre have been well documented but Bayly believes the 105kg player will be a more than adequate replacement for Olivier.

“Wynand was outstanding when he came back from the Boks and his distribution skills adds a extra dimension to our backline play. But Dries will add a physical impetus, because when he gets momentum he is really difficult to stop.

“He has his critics but he’s worked really hard on his conditioning and is a pivotal part of our team.”

In their last encounter at Vodacom Park, the Cheetahs backs were woeful and they relied on the boot of Willem de Waal to slot four penalties in the 24-12 loss. The Bulls conversely, played uncharacteristically free-flowing rugby and pounced on counter-attacking opportunities when they presented themselves.

Bayly said he believes the Bloemfontein outfit have too much class to be that poor again.

“That was an aberration if you look at how they’ve played since then. Defensively and on attack they are a very well structured side who are capable of devastating any team.

“We expect them to try and put the ball behind us with tactical kicks by Willem and Michael [Claasens],” he said when asked if he expected Rassie Erasmaus’ team to employ the same tactic against them as they did against the Sharks a week ago.

“That’s been their strength because they’ve got a great chasing defensive line who put severe pressure on any player who becomes isolated when they look to counter-attack.”

The Bulls management have bandied about comparisons between the teams this week and Bayly didn’t miss his opportunity to do the same.

“They are in the same situation as us but in reverse. People are always saying that they have this awesome backline but everyone fails to notice how good their pack are,” he asserted. “They can and have matched even the most physical of opponents.

“All-round they’ve got great balance, are well coached and are a very structured unit. That’s why they’re champions and that’s why this game will require us to be at our very best.”

By Ryan Vrede