The Lions aren’t far behind after producing yet another strong performance in beating the hapless Sharks 24-9 in Durban on Saturday and they will continue to be a threat with most of their remaining games being on home soil.
It is the Bulls, though, that will feel that they have made a lot of progress amongst the teams playing in their conference after starting the weekend in fourth place and not certain that they would be able to secure a bonus point victory in Port Elizabeth against the Southern Kings.
For the first time this season the Bulls managed to put together an 80 minute performance much of which had its foundation in the maturity with which they absorbed the early pressure applied by the Kings.
While the Bulls have blown hot and cold in their matches up to now, Saturday they displayed how ruthless they can be when all facets of play are working in tandem and from assured scrums and line-outs, they had the confidence to spread the ball to their backs who revelled with the amount of time and space they had with possession.
In the end the Bulls romped to a 38-6 victory scoring six tries in the process and collecting the all-important bonus point that now separates them from the Lions.
Bulls coach Nollis Marais was finally satisfied with his team’s performance but what stood out for him was the character shown by his players when they had two players in the sin bin and they were able to keep the Kings at bay.
“The guys showed a lot of character, especially when we were two players down in the scrums. Last week against the Cheetahs we fought for 80 minutes but in this game against the Kings we really fought and I’m proud of the guys,” Marais said.
Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss concurred with Marais and believes that the moments before half-time and with two men short will go a long way in the building the mental fortitude of the side.
“I’m very happy with the win but there are always things we can improve on. What stood out for me was the character the guys showed. Character is something you can’t coach and the guys showed it when we were 13 players on the field,” Strauss said.
There can be no doubting that the road ahead is long and uncertain but the Bulls will be content in that they are building a solid foundation to mount a serious challenge to make the play-offs.
The Bulls have now gone five games unbeaten and will this weekend face a Reds team that come off a morale boosting win over the defending champions the Highlanders.
Marais has warned against any talk of the play-offs and his focus is making sure that his team leave for their three match tour of Australia better prepared mentally and physically to return successful.
The Stormers continued to set the pace when they rumbled over the Sunwolves to a 46-19 win but face their biggest test yet when they face off against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The men from Cape Town should have put more points on the scoreboard but their overeagerness to put the Sunwolves to the sword got the better of them but there was more than sufficient play to enforce their belief that they are on the right path.
What the game against the Lions will provide for the Stormers is a true test of character and whether they are truly ready to ascend to the top of Super Rugby or whether they still need another season to work on their mental maturity. - The Star
Original source: Stormers, Bulls leading the way