RUGBY NEWS - Travelling to the inner city of Johannesburg to play at Ellis Park has never been easy for any visiting team, whether international or domestic, and Bulls coach Jake White was certainly not shocked when his team were upset 34-33 by the Lions in their Rainbow Cup match at the weekend.
While the Lions were winless and at the bottom of the log, they had been extremely competitive and could easily have won a couple of games already before they hosted the Bulls.
It was a potential banana peel and White was wary, with good cause as the Lions rode a superb scrummaging display and the Bulls’ own mistakes to inflict the first loss on the Currie Cup champions since March 26.
“The Lions are always difficult to play against and they had a really good scrum today,” White said about Saturday’s match.
“It’s not something we can’t fix and we’re learning as coaches as well, what resources we have. But you don’t know how they are going to react under pressure unless they are put in those situations. When you’re winning, you take the good; now we have to take this knock on the chin and learn from it.
“Playing under pressure is the only way you learn how to handle it and we were able to see certain players under pressure today. A lot of our youngsters were under that pressure for the first time and some of the decision-making was a bit wrong.
“Full credit to the Lions, but it’s not as if we need to reassess everything, this is an opportunity for the team to grow.”
The Bulls actually played well to take a 33-20 lead but then fell asleep and made a host of costly errors.
“We were leading 33-20 with 15 minutes left but then shot ourselves in the foot by things like dropping kick-offs and not finding touch, and then there were the scrums as well.
“If you can’t get your set-piece right then every penalty just puts you under more pressure. I have to stress how small the margins are in this competition and you can’t afford to drop your guard.
“Although the Lions played really well, we probably lost the game because at 33-20 we did enough to win it.
“We scored five tries so our attack was not too bad and Nollis Marais has worked really hard on our breakdown work, which has become a point of difference for us. You don’t have to say much about Johan Grobbelaar, Duane Vermeulen and Marco van Staden, but a lot of other guys are also making the right decisions at the rucks.”