Brenden Nel – SuperSport.com
Pretoria – Bulls coach John Mitchell was delighted with his side’s win over the Sharks this past weekend, not only for the result and five points on offer, but because it meant they gave something back to their suffering fans.
Bulls fans have been the butt of several jokes since their last Super Rugby victory in 2010 and have suffered through some poor seasons of late, and while Mitchell’s team have not achieved anything yet, even their most ardent critic would struggle not to say that the team is making progress under Mitchell.
While their record in Durban has always been good, it was the manner of control and the way they beat the Sharks that was impressive and showed the growth that the team has found under Mitchell.
But for the coach the most satisfying thing was that they gave their fans something to smile about.
“We will just take one week at a time, we have a long way to go,” Mitchell added.
“But at least we are starting to see a blueprint where there is confidence and we are starting to win the hearts and minds of our fans which is important because they’ve gone through a lot of sacrifice and hard times.
“At the end of the day it is up to us to make sure we serve something bigger than ourselves. If we continue to fight and play with that type of spirit, we will continue to win and make our fans proud.”
Mitchell praised both his locks RG Snyman and Lood de Jager, who were exceptional both in the setpieces and in the loose, while hat-trick hero Warrick Gelant was another who was heaped a lot of praise after excelling in the wet.
“The two locks have played a lot of rugby so they were a bit lucky that there wasn’t a lot of humid weather. The way the weather was, field position was critical and setpiece was always going to be difficult, hence the reason why I made them go the duration.
“I did have plans to put Jason Jenkins on for RG but it turned out a contestable lineout was just as important in that second half, especially after losing Hanro (Liebenberg) and having to use a loosie early.
“Warrick had a great week in prep, he is in a great space and he was brilliant. A lot of young men go through different pressures from time to time and he has been through some difficult performances as well in trying to find form. He looked like he enjoyed himself on his playground tonight which is the one thing he can control. So it is good to see him back in form.”
Mitchell said the key was now to keep the Bulls focused and fit and healthy for the rest of the competition, especially as both their bye weeks are over.
“We had to basically play through too many trials to make sure we weren’t rusty before the Canes, and then the bye came at a good time. We travelled and had a few bumps and bruises and it was good to mentally refresh the guys. But we just deal with one race at a time.
“We have a weekly periodalisation that is fully understood and is individually managed. So yeah in this eight week period that we are now, we have so much data on our athletes that every individual will be treated on an individual basis every week. For example there were massive collisions today so we will have to be very mindful of how we complete our early part of our week next week.”
The Bulls will host the Melbourne Rebels at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.
Kick off is at 15h05.
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