Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made it blatantly clear that he rated his side’s performance as one of the worst in his tenure as mentor of the side.
Ludeke’s calm demeanor did not change after the Super Rugby match, yet he could not hide his disappointment in the aftermath of a lacklustre showing from his charges.
“In the first half they kicked long and our kicking game from that wasn’t good enough,” Ludeke said.
“It was definitely our worst performance in the last five years, the way we almost absorbed the pressure they applied there.”
The Bulls went into the half-time break with a 14-9 lead although the Force made serious inroads after the restart to eventually enjoyed a 26-19 advantage with 25 minutes left on the clock.
While Ludeke bemoaned his troops’ performance he praised them in the same breath for eventually pulling through with full bonus points in the bag.
“The way we came back in the second half, the way players adjusted on the field, that was a special effort from the team,” he said.
“Last year against the Blues we were in exactly in the same situation, we couldn’t get out of that grip and tonight we got back.
“All credit to the captain for the way we got back to things that are working for us, the maul started working, we managed the high ball, we forced some turnovers and we converted pressure into points.”
While the performance was one the Bulls would like to forget they nevertheless lead the South African Conference in Super Rugby following two victories from two matches.
The Bulls will bank heavily on this positive momentum ahead of their tour of New Zealand and Australia, where they arguably face one of the toughest conquests of all the teams.
The Pretoria-based side depart on Tuesday for Auckland where they will face the Blues on Sunday. The tussle will be followed by matches against the Crusaders, Reds and Brumbies before their first bye.
“We will take a lot of confidence away, that is what we will need on tour as you will not always have the upper-hand and you will need to grind and stick to what you are good at,” the Bulls mentor said.
Ludeke will be crossing his fingers that the injuries to key personnel are not too serious and that he would be able to call on a full strength side.
Hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle and scrumhalf Francois Hougaard were early casualties, while Bjorn Basson and Jacques Potgieter also retired hurt.
Ralepelle could also be suspended after he was cited for dangerous contact after Saturday’s game.
The coach, however, was confident that the players would be fit by next week with Basson the only serious concern.
He will also be able to call on flankers Deon Stegmann and Dewalt Potgieter, who should return from injury.