Naas rues Bulls’ blunders

July 28, 2013
Posted by

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – “General Botha” was less than impressed with the tactical ploys of his beloved former troops.

Only this, of course, had nothing to do with Boer War combat in a time gone by.

From his position as a regular pundit in the SuperSport studio on Saturday, Bulls and Springbok flyhalf legend Naas Botha lamented highly controversial decision-making by the home camp in the final quarter of their failed Super Rugby semi-final against the Brumbies at Loftus.

Unsurprisingly, the one-time points machine reserved his main incredulity for captain Dewald Potgieter’s decision (assuming there were no other “cooks”, either on or off the park, centrally involved) to spurn a volley of opportunities to bank three points via kickable penalties.

The Bulls, belatedly but commendably having discovered a real head of steam, had grabbed the lead in the nail-biter for the first time on the hour mark, as Morne Steyn – just as much of a cult figure in Pretoria for metronomic success off the tee – banged one over to put the Bulls 20-19 in front.

Surging straight back onto the attack and with renewed vigour and urgency evident right through their ranks, the hosts were offered a trio of mostly easy-range penalties in the 67th, 70th and 72nd minutes, only to defy the wishes of the vast majority of the partisan crowd and go for the intended attacking lineout each time.

On every occasion, the Bulls only won sloppy ball or were even more damagingly turned over wholly as the Brumbies wriggled out of the tight spots to contemplate late show-sealing moves of their own.

Eventually, with home-based public and pundits positively baying for the right thing to be done, Steyn did bang a kick through the sticks to increase the lead to 23-19, albeit still leaving dangerous room for a swing in fortune.

It is also history now that in the 79th minute, with the Bulls’ defensive alignment fatally exposed by one man popping out of the
“wall”, Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua skilfully slipped through a gap to provide an inside pass that produced a seven-pointer, ensuring the Aussie outfit’s onward passage to next weekend’s final against defending champions the Chiefs.

Former Bok coach Nick Mallett described the spurning of the kicks as “strangely un-Bulls-like”, and ace accumulator Botha was just as critical.

“Morne should have taken (the initiative) himself and gone up and said ‘look, I’m kicking the points, and then let’s start again’.

“I also wouldn’t have taken off Chiliboy (Ralepelle) and Jacques Potgieter (during the final quarter).”

Bulls hooker Ralepelle, after all, had been a largely smooth-firing element of the lineout-throwing department: how often don’t you see opposition pinches or instances of miscommunication or bad timing shortly after a reserve hooker – in this instance Callie Visagie – comes in from the “cold” of the bench?

Blindside flank Potgieter, meanwhile, had been an inspiring source of go-forward momentum for the Bulls during their second-half revival, clattering into clean-outs with venom and making strong yards with ball in hand to gee up all his fellow-forwards, who had been well under the collective cosh in the first period.

But the bearded marauder, who is about to embark on a series of rugby adventures outside this country, was substituted with almost quarter of an hour to go, and seemingly not yet out of puff.

Plenty of cynics were suggesting afterwards that the Bulls may have perversely got a “good” outcome, given the limited chance of their being able to knock over the Chiefs in Hamilton after the fatiguing long trek to New Zealand.

I am just a little less sure, on that score … after all, the Bulls came massively close to achieving another real triumph of the spirit on Saturday, a characteristic that has fuelled this young outfit’s performances throughout the 2013 competition.

Who is to say they wouldn’t have worn the blue jersey with pride once more at Waikato Stadium, whether in triumph or loss?
Sadly the Highveld semi will long be remembered in the vicinity of Loftus as one that got away for reasons the Bulls might have prevented through greater option-taking nous.

This fish wiggled off the hook … although perhaps many South Africans will now rally behind compatriot Jake White in his quest to power the gutsy Brumbies to the title next Saturday?

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21 Comments

  1. avatar Jacques(Bunny) says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 9:05 am

    I found myself cheering with the Bulls supporters when these penalties was given and by the time we stopped cheering and looked at the TV again we saw the Bulls lining up for a Lineout :bangheadt:

    Doing it once like Nick said I could maybe found to understand but three times is just plain stupid or was it arrogance.

    Even the couch was seeing screaming in his radio pale! pale! pale!

    Brumies did look throughout the game as the team who wanted it most.

    I wonder if the Saders won in the morning if the Bulls would not have played different.

  2. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Yep I just watched the game again Jacques… I simply cannot understand the logic of not taking the PK’s… going to be a long time before the usually intro-spective Dewald gets over it…

    As an aside the other Potgieter had a blinder…

  3. avatar Jacques(Bunny) says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Bryce the other thing that Nick and the gang last night felt strongly about was the way they put the so called impact players on which actually took the Bulls backwards and not forward, I am with Nick, if you do not need to change players don’t.

  4. avatar out wide says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Can’t agree with Naas and others who want to blame the Bulls loss on Dewald’s decision to go for touch 3 times in a row in the last 10 minutes. Some complain that he gave up 9 points which is nonsense. The Bulls only received 3 kickable penalties because they stayed in the Brumbies redzone, putting them under pressure. All year long, the Bulls have been putting in rolling mauls from similar penalty kicks to touch and Dewald wasn’t to know that the first penalty to touch was to be spoilt by a Morne Steyn forward pass nor that the next 2 would be spoilt by poor lineout takes by I think it was Flip vd Merwe.

    Look at what happened when with a smile Dewald finally agreed to go for posts. Morne put it over and what Dewald didn’t want happened. The Brumbies kicked off into Bulls territory (no doubt Dewald wanted to stay out of there), and after some great George Smith drives and a number of phases, Toomua breaks through a gap (where was Morne) passes inside to Kuridrani who had 2 Bulls forwards right on top of him and the rest is history when he left them standing.

    No Naas, forget blaming the loss on the last 10 minute decisions by Dewald, look at the real culprits of handling errors, turnovers and scrum penalties conceded and tackles missed. Speight beat off poor tackles by Hougard, Basson and Kirchener before offloading to Mogg for the Brumbies first try. The rot set in way back then not in the last 10 minutes.

  5. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Yeah interesting… but I don’t agree for the most part…

    The second half was all the Bulls… and that was due to swopping Hougaard for Vermaak and changing the front-row to get parity in the scrums…

  6. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    No OW… with a 3pointer the Bulls would have at worst drawn the game… simple…

  7. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Lucky for the Boks though that scrums don’t count much anymore… the Wallabies front-row has scrummed the fcuk out of Sharks, Cheetahs and now the Bulls…

  8. avatar out wide says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Bryce, dont understand you. Are you saying there would have been 2 automatic kickable penalties if Dewald had gone for poles with the first kickable one? The Bulls eventually did take the 3 pointer and lost the game when the Brumbies resultantly kicked off and finished off the game in the Bulls half with a converted try. I maintain that is what Dewald was cleverly trying to avoid by keeping the game in the Brumbies half with a good chance of a Bulls converted try. As the Bulls were in the lead, that would have put them more than a converted try ahead of the Brumbies. Game won, Hamilton here the Bulls come.

  9. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    One more 3 points and the Bulls could not have lost…

    Keep the points ticking over… never defend a slight lead…

    Look no further than the coach for the correct decision…

  10. avatar The Year of the Cheetah says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    the stats guy on twitter did however throw lite on 2 of the penalties not taken – calculating that their respective probabilities were 63 and 64%.

    I could not see the game but those stats, with Morne as kicker, paints a different picture

  11. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Morne is a 86% kicker…

  12. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Pierre Spies… his leadership and his LO prowess was seriously lacking… difference between a final and bowing out…

  13. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    “Jake: Bulls decisions helped us
    2013-07-28 12:26
    Pretoria – Brumbies coach Jake White says the Bulls’ decisions to decline three goal-kicking opportunities in the final quarter of the match assisted his team in securing a 26-23 victory in their Super Rugby semi-final at Lotus Versfeld, Pretoria on Saturday. “The players said they grew a bit of a leg on the basis that they weren’t going for poles, it almost I suppose helped us a bit because we kept saying ‘they are leaving the door open’,” White said after the match. “I don’t know what the reason for that was, considering that they took Ralepelle off and they had a new hooker, and then you have the best goal-kicker in the competition on the field.”

  14. avatar Timeo says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    The 1st penalty was near the RH touch-line. MS’s kick percentage from there is probably less than 50. 2nd one was kick-able, the 3rd long range.

    Would have made no difference in the end. The moment you slot one the game restarts in your half and if you make handling errors (like they did) there, the Brumbies could have (like they did) scored a try.

    With Spies and Kruger gone the Bulls’ line-out was too weak. They wouldn’t have beaten the Chiefs in Hamilton anyway. Only bummer is that they lost at Loftus.

  15. avatar Bekke says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Mof Steyn cost them the game. Just kicked and kicked – fokol ambition to do anything else on the field. With all their posession, Bulls should have won easily.

  16. avatar The Year of the Cheetah says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 1:11 am

    Bryce thats the whole point of a ‘probability stat’ – it takes into consideration who the kicker is – basically saying Morne had a 63% chance of knocking those over.

    So if your 86% percent kicker has a 63% chance of knocking a kick over, that kick should not be the be-all decision for a captain to make.

    Like Naas said, maybe Morne should have been more forceful in taking the bal

  17. avatar Boertjie says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 1:12 am

    I’m with Timeo and Out Wide.

    No word about the blatant forward pass leading
    to a Brumbies try?

    Why can’t the TMO whisper in the ref’s ear:
    “Ask for a replay!” when all the viewers
    (plus the guys in the studio) was adamant
    that it was forward?

    Are the four people in charge not supposed to
    support one another – or do they want the ref
    to look like an arsehole?

    Point is no-one HAS to know about a TMO suggestion
    or intervention when he’s in doubt.

    No word about Nick climbing into the incompetent
    Joubert?

    And the binding in that scrum right in front of
    Joubert that was so vividly pointed out twice?

    Even Naas did something unfamiliar: criticising
    Stransky’s interview with Joubert.
    “What I don’t understand is here we are discussing
    the game we’ve just seen, and they are on about the
    British Lions’ series in Australia?”
    :lol:

  18. avatar Mug Punters Organisation of South Africa says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Illegal tactics at scrum, some really bad calls by our Golden watch ref, forward pass for a try I now wonder about how far a certain Aussie bookie has influence. Only :pot: :fishing:

    Some people might not see it but there is a crisis of confidence in our kickers which needs to be sorted quickly.

    As for scrums they are very important, never knew it changed, and we need to deal with the dodgy tactics of 2 weeks in a row by the brumbies.
    When you put your hand on the ground its a penalty, Craig who missed 6 times in the last 2 games for the Brumbies which is not a co-incidence.
    Lifting your arm up to force the bind to be dropped.
    Getting in the split second early at the hit is all you need.
    Throwing the ball under the 8th mans feet.

    I hope we don’t see Basson in the Bok setup. 2 vital missed tackles both resulting in tries.

    I think there is a certain poetic justice in the sacked former Bok coach beaten our premier Bok laden side against all the odds at home.

    Time will tell if it was local knowledge, non thinking saffa rugby players or a very good coach.

  19. avatar Craven says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 7:41 am

    On the not taking the kicks issue, the first one was with about 15 minutes still too play. At one stage in the second half Bulls had 74% possesion, if you don’t back yourself with 15 minutes to go and a shitload of possesion to get back into the Brumbies half you have bigger problems than at first thought. Bulls had 15 minutes to get into Brumbies half and score again, even if the Brumbies pulled another try out of the hat.

    And who wins rugby games by not scoring points on offer? Seriously, we have to get out of this stupid mindset we are in where in close games we do not take points when they are offer. It bit a few of our teams in the arse during this superugby season, and it still seams (reading the comments on here) that people defend this stupidity?

  20. avatar Americano says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Boertje – You talking about the game winning try being forward?

    I wish I didn’t delete because I was shocked while watching that it even got a look by the TMO. Looked definitely backward ( not even flat) to me….if that’s the one you’re referring to.

    Basson definitely got ghosted by that island guy for the first try. Was that an amazing offload by I think it was Speight to set him free or what?

    So what’s the deal? NZ has dibs on Fiji/Samoa/Tonga throw in other nearby islands with multiple vowels & Australia gets New Guinea?
    I never knew Will Genia was from New Guinea till I saw it on Total Rugby. He came as a kid so doesn’t really count – but it sure looked like the Brumbies had a few playing this weekend.

  21. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    July 29th, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Speight is Fijian (well Australian in a few weeks)… Tomane and co have Island decent but are Australian born…

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