Gap between SA and New Zealand teams slowly closing‚ says Mitchell

03 May 2018 - 12:04 By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Adriaan Strauss of Bulls celebrates a try with teammates during the Super Rugby match between Bulls and Stormers on 31 March 2018 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium
Adriaan Strauss of Bulls celebrates a try with teammates during the Super Rugby match between Bulls and Stormers on 31 March 2018 at Loftus Versfeld Stadium
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Bulls coach John Mitchell says the gap between South Africa and New Zealand teams is slowly closing in Super Rugby.

Speaking as he prepared his charges for the daunting trip to the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday‚ the former All Blacks captain said South African teams have come a long way and they have what it takes to beat the Kiwis.

Against New Zealand teams this season‚ Bulls beat the Hurricanes in their opening match of the campaign at Loftus but went on to lose to the Chiefs and Crusaders away from home. Last weekend they narrowly lost by one point to the Highlanders in Pretoria.

“We have closed the gap on New Zealand teams‚ we have come a long way to realise that we can actually play and beat them‚” he said.

“The Sharks are different to the Stormers or the Lions because each of these teams have strong elements that gives them strengths.

"Playing against New Zealand teams is about how you do your homework‚ how you mirror your preparations to match situations.

"There is more passion and physicality in local derbies but Kiwi sides try to get the ball more to space but that doesn’t mean the game is not physical.”

Asked about lessons learned from the painful experience of losing to the Highlanders last weekend‚ Mitchell said they have buried it in the past and they don’t want to allow the disappointment affect them against the Stormers.

“We got sloppy and impatient defensively against the Highlanders and that cost us in the end.

"But we are not going to let a late penalty goal affect our confidence as a group.

"We will stick to the same stuff and we are not going to beat ourselves up with things that we can’t control‚” he said‚ adding that the Capetonians provide a different challenge.

“The Stormers come with different challenges but we will focus on them specifically and we know much about each other.

"It will come down to who has made the right adjustments and it will be an emotional day with Siya Kolisi playing his 100th Super Rugby match.

"You also have Damian de Allende who has been in good form and he was unlucky not to have been the man of the match against the Rebels last weekend.”

Bulls captain Burger Odendaal added that for them to succeed against the Stormers‚ who will be backed by their passionate supporters at Newlands Stadium‚ they must break their momentum.

“For us‚ it is going to start with the first scrum and the first line-out‚" Odendaal said.

"The Stormers have good forwards but if we can dominate and break their momentum‚ we will make it difficult for them.

"If we manage to take the forwards out of their game it will be easier for us.”


15. Warrick Gelant‚ 14. Johnny Kotze‚ 13. Jesse Kriel‚ 12. Burger Odendaal (capt)‚ 11. Divan Rossouw/Travis Ismaiel‚ 10. Handre Pollard‚ 9. Andre Warner‚ 8. Thembelani Bholi/Marco van Staden‚ 7. Jason Jenkins/Thembelani Bholi‚ 6. Marco van Staden/Roelof Smit‚ 5. Lood de Jager‚ 4. RG Snyman‚ 3. Trevor Nyakane‚ 2. Adriaan Strauss‚ 1. Lizo Gqoboka


16. Jaco Visagie‚ 17. Frans van Wyk/Nqobisiwe Mxoli‚ 18. Conrad van Vuuren‚ 19. Hendre Stassen/Roelof Smit‚ 20. Ivan van Zyl‚ 21. Manie Libbok‚ 22. Divan Rossouw/Travis Ismaiel