Red-hot Bulls attack can be even sharper

red-hot bulls attack can be even sharper

Red-hot Bulls attack can be even sharper

The big talking point – and rightly so – around the Bulls following their last few games has been their leaky defence.

But considering that they have one United Rugby Championship game to go – against the Sharks in Durban next Saturday (4.05pm kick-off) as they chase Munster for top spot on the log – perhaps Jake White and his management team should double down and refine their excellent attack even further.

The players were given the week off following last Saturday’s 56-35 victory over Benetton at Loftus Versfeld, with a number of the Bulls stalwarts attending a Springbok alignment camp in Cape Town on Wednesday and Thursday.

So, there wouldn’t have been time to totally remodel their defence systems ahead of the trip to Kings Park, which will be followed by a home quarter-final in Pretoria on June 8.

White may have had a point when he stated he doesn’t believe it is a system or technical issue with the Bulls’ defence, as he felt it was almost natural for players to lower their guard if they have a big lead.

It was 37-10 against Glasgow the week before, and 31-7 against Benetton, and those games ended in 40-34 and 56-35 victories respectively for the Bulls.

They have scored 81 tries – five more than Leinster, and one behind the Irish giants’ record from last season – and score an average of 45 points at home (best of all teams) and 26 away (second only to Glasgow’s 29).

White mentioned after last weekend’s Benetton game that while he wants to be tougher on his players to tighten the defence, the Bulls’ scoring prowess effectively means that if they push to put 50 points on the board, then the opposition must get 51 to win.

So, with the resources available at Loftus Versfeld, the Bulls might as well continue to run teams off their feet with ball-in-hand and force them into mistakes with an underrated kicking game.

But can they get even better on attack? Despite scoring all those tries, they still waste at least two or three prime opportunities in almost every game that should result in five-pointers.

Perhaps the key part of their approach should be the kind of patience they showed in the first half against Benetton last week.

The Bulls didn’t just swing the ball to wings Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie, but continued to build phases and engage the Benetton forwards at close quarters.

The slow poison worked a treat, as eventually the holes started opening up everywhere in the Italian club’s defence.

Selection is still a nagging issue in some positions as well. The Bulls are missing the injured Stedman Gans dearly in midfield. David Kriel and Harold Vorster have done well in Gans’ absence, but the former Blitzbok captain has a different set of skills on attack and defence that contributed significantly to the team’s efforts earlier in the season.

Kriel has been superb in both the No 12 and 13 jerseys, but is probably best utilised at inside centre – but he’s had to shift to outside centre to accommodate Vorster.

Moodie battled at No 13 in a few games, and has been much improved since returning to right wing, so is not really an option in midfield.

Sebastian de Klerk has mainly featured at No 14 for the Bulls, but was actually an impressive outside centre for the Pumas over the past few years, and it is a pity that he hasn’t had much time at No 13 for the Pretoria outfit – so perhaps it would be worth it to give him a start there against the Sharks.

Springbok veteran Willie le Roux has had his good moments for the Bulls, but is still prone to making a few unforced errors.

Devon Williams has been the best fullback for the team this season, and should be handed a start against the Sharks to stake his claim for the play-offs.

At flyhalf, Johan Goosen has more attacking attributes than Chris Smith, but the latter is more solid and predictable – in a good way – and is the type of pivot that may get more out of a star-studded back line than a flashy playmaker, especially when things become tight in a play-off.

The hooker battle isn’t clear-cut either between Akker van der Merwe and Johan Grobbelaar.

Getting the bench mix just right is also a major factor, especially among the loose forwards, where the likes of Reinhardt Ludwig, Nizaam Carr, Mpilo Gumede and Jannes Kirsten are now competing for game time – with a six-two forwards split perhaps the way to go for the rest of the season.

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