Saturday’s seven-try blitzkrieg by Johan Ackermann’s men was a display of total rugby and affirmation that they are by far the best South African franchise and real title contenders.
Not only was the victory arguably their best performance of the season, but it was a show of strength from a team that had been in the rugby wilderness three years ago as they had to watch from the sidelines - not being part of Super Rugby.
While the warning bells have been there all season of how brutal the Lions can be, they laid it all out at Loftus, showcasing the individual brilliance amongst their ranks and also how effective they are as a collective.
There were stars aplenty in the Lions team with scrumhalf Faf de Klerk playing a starring role and he was well supported by hard-running centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg while the Lions pack was instrumental in battering the Bulls into submission.
They now go into the June international window break with a comfortable six- point lead over the second-placed Stormers but captain Warren Whiteley says they will need to continue with the same ruthlessness once the competition resumes and make sure that they go into the play-offs firing on all cylinders.
“It was a great performance by the team. This was a tricky game for us as it was away from home, against a confident side that had recorded a good win against the Stormers and it came just before the break. Credit must go to the entire team as we put lot of emphasis on getting our systems right for this last game. Going into the break it will be important for us to keep our feet on the ground and stay consistent when we start again. After this break we must keep the fire burning and momentum going for the game against the Sharks.”
As the celebrations would have gone on well into Saturday night in the Lions camp - not only for beating their provincial neighbours but also for several of their players who made it into the Springbok squad - the Bulls on the other hand are left with a lot of soul searching to do over the next four weeks.
The men in blue were found wanting in all departments and even though they were fully aware of what they would be facing, they failed dismally in being able to put up a worthy contest.
If it was not them conceding territory through lacklustre defence, 21 missed tackles, then they were conceding possession by giving the Lions dominance in the set-pieces. But their biggest weakness on the night was their inability to deal with the Lions' physicality and brute force in the collision.
Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss conceded his team just didn’t man up to the onslaught from the Lions and in order to make the play-offs they now sit in a precarious situation of having to win all their remaining games against the Jaguares, Sunwolves and Cheetahs and hope the Sharks and Stormers drop points.
“We weren’t at our best and didn’t hang on to the ball in contact situations. They were good at breakdown and in creating legitimate turnovers. We didn’t pitch up the way we did against the Stormers,” Strauss said. “We are not proud of this performance because we've showed we can play better rugby than this. We have to learn from this and even though there's not a lot of positives to take out of the game, we must get better and I believe we will.” - The Star
Original source: Tough times for Bulls