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Bulls have ‘ticked the boxes’ for Super Rugby‚ says Mitchell

07 February 2018 - 12:05 By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Lions coach John Mitchell.
Lions coach John Mitchell.
Image: Mahlatse Mphahlele

Bulls coach John Mitchell says they have ticked the right boxes during their grueling preseason campaign that comes to an end with a practice match against the Jaguares at Loftus on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulls have been in preseason form a few weeks after the conclusion of the Currie Cup in November and Mitchell said his players have been engaged and learning during their preparations as their first Super Rugby match of the season against the Hurricanes on February 24 at home approaches.

“We have our own measurements that we look at in terms of gauging progress and we have ticked most of the boxes‚” he said.

“The guys have been engaged and learning throughout the process and this is the most challenging time in our preseason because we are getting back players who are returning from respective injuries‚ and those who were playing in Japan.

“But we have to remain grounded because we know that there is a long way to go and we have a lot of improvement left in us. It is nice to be able to get better and keep our feet on the ground.”

Last weekend the Bulls played to a 26-all draw with the Stormers in Stellenbosch in their penultimate practice match and Mitchell is happy with what his side were able to achieve on the field against an equally strong opposition.

“There was stuff that we wanted to improve on and we managed to do it. We were good in our performance and dominated contests for long periods of time‚ which was pleasing‚” he said.

“Everyone got to play rugby and it was the right step in the right direction for us‚ which is pleasing.

“We are working on everything‚ repeating a lot of stuff‚ and now we are having game situations‚ which is better for learning because you can take the players into actual situations.

“Players can be involved in situations and as we move to the tournament we will be specific depending on the opposition.”

Though Mitchell is focused on his own team and satisfied with their preparations‚ he has noticed some good things coming from the Sharks and the Stormers.

“Every side defends differently but what I have already seen is that the Sharks are very strong in their set-piece.

“The Stormers have nice hand speed with the ball and they are very dominant and serious about their set-piece as well.

“They have a few experienced forwards missing as well and they probably have more injuries than all of us‚” he said‚ adding that the Bulls will not abandon their traditional brand of attacking rugby.

“I think we will still be traditional‚ still be strong in our set-piece‚ and we’re always seeking to play better attacking rugby.

"But you also have to be able to go without the ball as well and be comfortable with that and present yourself opportunities.

“All I have really been focusing on is us and it has been quite refreshing not to have to go into the dossier of the opposition because there are going to be 19 weeks of that to come.”