Bulls attack best in league, but defence needs work

rugby20 May 2024 08:38| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Jake White © Getty Images

After a whirlwind weekend that left them in second spot, with the hope still alive of finishing top of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, the Vodacom Bulls will head into their final game against the Hollywoodbets Sharks knowing they have the best attack in the competition.

But at the same time, it is their defence that will need some work as they look to successfully navigate the playoff rounds that will follow.

The Bulls Director of Rugby, Jake White, was adamant that the team would not stand back for any side, and their top two position means a home quarterfinal, and possibly semifinal is guaranteed if they can beat the Sharks in a fortnight’s time.

And given the way the team attacked over the last six, seven weeks, White is right to be happy, knowing that at their Loftus Versfeld fortress they will be tough to beat.

“The one criteria, which is constant for any competition, is that the team that scores the most points is always near the top. If you look at the glory days of the Brumbies, Toulouse, Crusaders. We scored 50 today, so you have to score 51 to beat us,” White said after his side’s win over Benetton.


“But I still want to be tougher on the players about not allowing teams to score easily against us – either through our mistakes or we put ourselves in those situations. But that will come with time.

“What I’m thinking is that maybe because we get to 30 points up, but we almost think we can score from everywhere – and then we turn the ball over.

“The maul try is an area we’ve got to look at, as they scored an easy maul try just before halftime. But generally, I don’t think it’s a work-rate thing – I just don’t think it’s a system thing. It’s just an understanding of where we are on the field and just being a bit more accurate with the execution of the understanding.

“It’s a difficult one, but we’ll maybe bring in something at training where we can just call it game understanding, game management, and maybe turnover control where we can consciously understand what we have to do.”


Looking at the log it is easy to see where the Bulls are doing everything right. The Bulls have scored a massive 613 points, by far the most in this year’s Championship, while conceding 419 at the same time. To put it in perspective, while no team comes close, only four teams in the 16 team championship have conceded more points.

That may be a moot point if you are outscoring the opposition, but with playoff rounds naturally tighter, the Bulls will definitely need to tighten up on defence.

The attack stats are impressive though. Leinster come close with 521 points this season, but that is almost 100 points less than the Bulls scored, while Munster’s 454 is the lowest of the top four sides, with Glasgow Warriors coming in at 481. Ironically the only other team to score more than 500 points are the Emirates Lions, with 502 this season. The Bulls points difference of 194 is also the biggest of all the teams.

While that doesn’t count for much going into the playoffs, it certainly shows that the Bulls have evolved into an attacking side that loves scoring tries, and in different ways as well.

“At times, we looked like the best team in the competition. You can never underestimate scoring some of those tries that we scored – the shape of our attack was good,” White explained.


“The one thing we are lacking is the edge on defence, from the ruthlessness of not allowing teams to score points against us. The one thing that is very, very pleasing is that of all the top teams in any competition, you have to be a team that can score 30 points every weekend.

“I would think that our home record in terms of points scored must be close to 40 points on average – now that’s a good place to be in this league at Loftus.”

White pointed to his captain Ruan Nortje’s words in the changeroom afterwards where he spoke about mental attitude on defence.

“He gives the team his word that when we have to defend and we are not 30 points up, that the mental attitude will be different. I don’t want to say it’s natural or normal, but he’s just saying it’s something that we are going to have to find, and he thinks we will find it anyway.

“The last two weeks, the teams we’ve played have kicked into the corner and had many opportunities to test us, and we haven’t passed that test.

“So, we won’t have as many entries into our 22, because teams will take the points. And with all the lessons we’re learning in these games, I’ve got no doubt we will be better by the time the knock-out stages come around.

“It’s not like you wave a wand and next week we’re such a fantastic defensive side that no one scores against us. It comes with time, experience and cohesion.”

The Bulls have some respite with an off week that will refresh players, before turning their attention to their Durban trip as the final pool outing for the team before the playoffs arrive.