Frustrating day at Loftus for triumphant Blue Bulls
Pretoria outfit make heavy weather of a routine encounter
On a sunny afternoon, the Bulls played in various shades of their light blue regalia as they made heavy weather of what should have been a routine victory.
After a dominant first 40 minutes it took them 32 minutes of the second half to confirm their bonus-point win and their third consecutive triumph.
When the Bulls looked good, they were irresistible but the Rebels found a way to frustrate them.
But the Bulls were their own worst enemies.It may have been the Bulls' fourth win of what is turning out to be a reasonably decent campaign but one that will require closer post-match scrutiny.
The latent quality of this Bulls side cannot be doubted but they are still a work in progress.
Consistency isn't a virtue that's earned overnight but they didn't soil the gains accrued from last week's evisceration of the Sharks.
The first half was more about the points the Bulls left on the field as compared to the ones they had in the backs.
Tries scored by Adriaan Strauss (6th minute) and Jesse Kriel (24th minute) would have, in a bygone Bulls era, been seen as out of this world.
In the John Mitchell dispensation, the interlinking between forwards and backs is now second nature.
Roaming in the wide channels like a gamekeeper hunting down poachers, Strauss was the recipient of superb work by his forwards. Kriel expertly collected Burger Odendaal's chip-kick that caught the Rebels' defence flat-footed.It may have taken the Bulls another 16 minutes to score their third try through Divan Rossouw but the effort displayed by their skilful tight forwards cannot be understated.
In between those tries, the Bulls played some wonderfully inventive and effective rugby without shirking their physical responsibilities.
Openside flanker Roelof Smit had a blinder but his hands let him down in the 25th and 28th minutes when passes from Odendaal and De Jager would have put him away for tries.
Strauss was also guilty of a misguided 29th minute that wasted an overlap but his newly found zeal in the "libero" role he now occupies alongside his primary hooker duties more than made up for that mistake.
There were times when Mitchell could have pulled out what remained of his hair, especially in the error-strewn and patchy second half, but the Bulls are heading in the right direction.
They're very close to marrying their ambition with endeavour. All they need is a bit of composition and judiciousness.
Lood de Jager, Thembelani Bholi, RG Snyman and Marco van Staden all put in appreciable shifts while in the front Trevor Nyakane and Pierre Schoeman weren't removed from the action.Bulls (21) 28
Rebels (3) 10
Bulls -Tries: Adriaan Strauss, Jesse Kriel, Divan Rossouw, Andre Warner; Conversions: Handre Pollard (4).
Rebels - Try: Jonathan Ruru; Conversion: Jack Debreczeni; Penalty: Debreczeni.