The Bulls beat the Sharks in their return match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, handing the visitors their first defeat of the season. When the two sides met in the first round of the competition in Durban, the Bulls were convincingly beaten by their coastal rivals. Ludeke said that the difference had been a few tactical changes made by Springbok veteran Matfield who was the team’s attack coach before making a return to the playing field. “A lot of things we worked on over the last few weeks came through. Victor made a few smart adjustments to our attack in the week and it paid off for us today,” he said.
The victory was affirmation to the Bulls coach that his side was on the right track as they cemented their place among the top sides in the competition with only five points separating them from the log-leading Sharks. “If you get a win against the Sharks, the way we played, it is a good reward for us and playing against a side that is on top of their game,” Ludeke said after the match. Matfield, who took over the captaincy after lock partner Flip van der Merwe, was ruled out due to a hamstring strain on Friday, lead a spirited Bulls pack.
The return of former Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter to the side also added a new dimension to the side as he formed a handy trio with Deon Stegmann and Jacques du Plessis. The 20-year-old Du Plessis is clearly coming into his own as he was again valuable with ball in hand and defensively. Stegmann and Potgieter were equally impressive with the former terrorising the Sharks at the breakdown area.
The Bulls lay down the gauntlet after the restart with Du Plessis breaking through a tackle in the 47 minute to score, with flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter converting to level the scores on 13-13. “We felt at half-time we created opportunities that we didn’t use, we gave away soft penalties that kept them in front,” Matfield said. “But 20 minutes into the second half we were good and we can take a lot out of that, there are still a lot of mistakes but we are a work in progress.”
Matfield said the secret to beating the Sharks brimming with Springbok players was the fact that they aimed at playing as a unit instead on relying on individual stars. “Against the Blues we were very happy about how we played, tonight we always knew it would be tough because the Sharks are a very good team, they haven’t lost yet,” he said. “We really had to fight till the end with 23 guys giving their best, playing for each other and really showing great commitment out there.”