Bulls sticking to the John Mitchell playbook

04 February 2019 - 16:06 By Craig Ray
The Vodacom Bulls head coach Pote Human.
The Vodacom Bulls head coach Pote Human.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Bulls coach Pote Human is being true to his word by building on the foundations John Mitchell laid during his short stay in Pretoria last season.

Mitchell has moved on to assist Eddie Jones with England‚ but his playbook is still very much part of Human’s strategy.

Before he was offered the Super Rugby head-coaching job‚ Human said that if he were giving the opportunity to coach the Bulls in the southern hemisphere’s premier competition‚ he wouldn’t veer far from the Mitchell blueprint.

And now that he is in charge‚ it was evident that he is following through on his initial promise.

Despite losing 33-28 to the Stormers in a pre-season friendly at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday‚ Human’s Bulls were impressive.

After gifting the Stormers three early tries via a turnover‚ intercept and charge down‚ to trail 21-0‚ the Bulls surged back to lead 28-26 with only minutes on the clock remaining.

They dominated the middle period of the match despite making wholesale changes at halftime‚ which is the nature of a friendly.

Their offloading in the tackle had Mitchell’s fingerprints all over it‚ and the work they began last year‚ already appears to have gone up a notch with Human’s consistent approach.

“We are building on the foundations laid down by Mitch last year‚” Human said. “There will be a few tweaks here and there‚ but we are heading in the right direction.”

The match was a dry run for the Super Ruby season-opener against the Stormers at Loftus on February 16‚ and naturally neither side wanted to reveal its full hand last weekend.

"I'm not concerned by the outcome of this match because there were other things we wanted to achieve in this game‚” Human said.

“These are exciting times for us. We want to play an expansive brand of rugby and today showed why we are on the right path."

Bulls captain Lood de Jager added: "There are lots of things that could change in the next two weeks. It's never nice to lose to the Stormers‚ but there is a bigger picture that's more important than this result. I don't think this win gave them a psychological advantage."

Meanwhile Lions coach Swys de Bruin was satisfied with Saturday’s 19-14 win over the Sharks in Cape Town‚ which was played prior to the Bulls versus Stormers clash as part of Super Hero Sunday.

“I’m just relieved in the sense that there were no injury worries‚” De Bruin said. “In these sort of games‚ you don’t want to show too much‚ and you just desperately hope there won’t be any injuries. For a first game of the season‚ with a lot of guys coming back‚ I’ll give it a pass mark‚ but not a good pass.

“Our DNA is to play [ambitious rugby]‚ and with the loose forwards we have‚ we want to give the ball some air.

“We made use of a big squad‚ and it’s difficult to maintain momentum when you’re making lots of changes‚ but there are no big concerns.”

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