Mils Muliaina says they’ve learnt their lessons about having preconceived expectations of the Bulls and insists they won’t make the same mistakes again.
When the sides met at Loftus in the league phase the Bulls blended a structured approach with an unexpected expansive edge to down the Chiefs 33-27. It was a departure from the relatively low-risk approach that had been the central feature of their game on their Australasian tour.
Muliaina said their preparation prior to the match centred around nullifying the Bulls’ pack and their primary kickers, but they were caught off guard when the Bulls started to hit up in the wide channels.
‘There’s definitely a bit of a misconception about the Bulls. They were criticised a lot for their kicking early in the season, but who’s laughing now?’ Muliaina told keo.co.za.
‘If you dissected their game closely, you’d realise that they are equally adept at running it as they are at playing down the middle. We certainly found that out when we played them at Loftus. We were expecting a similar approach to what they adopted on tour, but they were very effective in the way they moved the ball.
‘We haven’t made the same mistake this time around. We know now that they’ve got a pretty complete game.’
Muliaina added that the same applied to the Chiefs. To box them as a cavalier outfit with little regard for building a platform, he said, was ill-advised.
‘I think the way we played early in the tournament was pretty expansive, then for the last three weeks or so we’ve shown a different side to ourselves in grinding out a couple of wins. So I thinks there’s a flawed perception of us. We’re able to play adapt our style to the match situation,’ he said.
Muliaina said he couldn’t understand the incessant criticism of the Bulls, neither could he get his head around the widely held view that they would look to run the Bulls off their feet.
‘I’m from the school of thought that you play to your strengths and don’t stray too far from that. I hear the term expansive and conservative rugby being thrown about, but if you play away from your strengths you’re pretty certain to lose. If you play to those, you stand a much better chance of getting a positive result. It’s simple, you either play winning or losing rugby,’ he said.
‘People have become fascinated about differentiating between sides based on their styles. You have two sides with contrasting styles in the final and that is going to make for a wonderful match.’
By Ryan Vrede