Bulls ‘at times looked like best team in the competition’

Canon Moodie scores one of his three tries for the Bulls against Benetton at Loftus Versfeld yesterday. Photo: BackpagePix

Canon Moodie scores one of his three tries for the Bulls against Benetton at Loftus Versfeld yesterday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published May 18, 2024


While he was understandably crowing about his team’s attack scoring nine tries, Bulls boss Jake White said he will be “tougher on the players” about their defensive lapses following the 56-35 win over Benetton at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Pretoria side produced some breathtaking passages of play with ball-in-hand, to hand Canan Moodie a hat-trick and David Kriel a brace, and it led to the Bulls moving up to second place on the United Rugby Championship log.

That was due to a huge favour from Gauteng neighbours the Lions, who beat Glasgow Warriors 44-21 at Ellis Park yesterday, despite being reduced to 14 men just before half-time due to a Ruan Venter red card.

Munster were on top of the standings with 63 points at the time of writing, with the Bulls second on 61 and Glasgow (60) third, although Leinster (59) had the chance to go to No 1 if they could beat Ulster in Belfast late last night.

The Bulls started like a house on fire against Benetton yesterday, grabbing a four-try bonus point in just 25 minutes through touchdowns by Moodie, Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse and captain Ruan Nortjé.

But they allowed the Italian outfit to score five tries themselves, which is something the Bulls need to sort out before the play-offs.

They will enjoy some time off next week before tackling the Sharks on Durban on June 1, ahead of a home quarter-final at Loftus.

“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 the match.

“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 half-time.

“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.”

But the Bulls still scored some delightful tries as the forwards won the physical battle and the backs took full advantage.

Moodie got three five-pointers, but there was some outstanding performances from Player-of-the-Match Arendse, halfbacks Embrose Papier and Johan Goosen, as well as some classy touches from fullback Willie le Roux.

“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 said.

“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.”


Bulls 56 – Tries: Canan Moodie (3), David Kriel (2), Kurt-Lee Arendse, Ruan Nortjé, Akker van der Merwe, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions: Johan Goosen (4). Penalty: Chris Smith (1).

Benetton 35 – Tries: Onisi Ratave, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Andy Uren, Toa Halafihi, Marco Zanon. Conversions: Rhyno Smith (5).