The Bulls’ tactical kicking in their victory over the Sharks was identified as the outstanding feature of their play.
The Bulls started poorly, playing uncharacteristically expansively in their territory. However, they settled into a familiar pattern in the second half, and suffocated the Sharks, whose attacks became increasingly desperate, which in turn benefited the Bulls.
Morne Steyn scored all of the Bulls’ 18 points off his boot, but his pin-point tactical kicking was also central to their success. The height, weight and placement of the punts gave his chasers every opportunity to put the Sharks’ receivers under pressure and often forced infringements at the subsequent breakdown or compromised return options (kicks or runs).
Even in light of a mass departure of senior players as well as director of rugby Heyneke Meyer, the Bulls looked organised, purposeful and efficient once they had settled. Sharks coach John Plumtree said his team’s response under pressure was poor but added that when the Bulls are that accurate in that pattern there isn’t much you can do to counter them.
Ludeke said: ‘Our tactical kicking was the standout aspect of our performance. The primary kickers did their job well and the chasers were excellent at contesting in the air or making a strong tackle on the receiver.’
Captain Pierre Spies said their tactical kicking allowed them to build pressure in a manner they weren’t able to with a ball-in-hand approach and pointed to their breakdown work after the ball had been received by the Sharks as being decisive to the outcome. ‘It was the most important facet of play in the match,’ Spies said. ‘We kept our focus, they lost their concentration and Morne could punish them.’
Sharks captain Keegan Daniel agreed. ‘That’s where the match was lost, yes,’ he said. ‘We lost focus and didn’t react to their pressure well. It was good to know we could get ourselves back into the game [with a late try] but those errors at the breakdown cost us.’
Plumtree, however, retained belief in his attacking approach despite its execution failing at Loftus. ‘We would have taken an ugly win rather than a beautiful defeat, but the way we played in those last couple of minutes is what makes us a formidable opponent and that’s how we want to play this season.’