Cape Town – It is back to the drawing board for the Bulls after their 33-9 loss to the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday, but coach Nollis Marais believes his young squad will take a lot from the experience.
Seven of the starting 15 for the Bulls on Saturday were 22-years-old or younger, while skipper Adriaan Strauss (30) was by far the most experienced player in the side.
The Bulls were good defensively for the first half and had exchanged blows with the hosts to go into the break 9-6 down, but the wheels fell off in the second period as the Stormers ran in three tries to put the game to bed.
It was a frustrating evening for the men from Pretoria, who were dominated at set piece time in the second half, but Marais believes that his group pf players will come out of this experience stronger.
“We need to manage our youngsters and make sure that they’re ready to play down the line,” said Marais.
“It’s a long competition and they will get better every week.
“We lost a lot of players last year and we knew that we had to start playing the youngsters otherwise two years from now we would have had the same problem. It’s not nice, but we have to stick to what we believe in.”
Marais emphasised the importance of securing set-piece ball.
“We showed our youth and inexperience in that second half,” he said.
“If you don’t win your own set piece ball, you can have a thousand plans, but if you can’t win your own scrum ball then the momentum is going to be given to the other team.
“Once they had the momentum guys like Juan (De Jongh) and Rob (Du Preez) came into the game and gave them front-foot ball.”
Strauss said he had been “frustrated” by his side’s performance.
“It’s frustrating because I really know we’ve got potential in this team, like we showed in the first half,” the 54-Test Springbok said.
“It’s frustrating when we don’t play to our ability. In the second half some of their players showed their class. We made a couple of silly mistakes as well at lineout time, but they contested well.
“The Stormers scrummed really well in the second half and that is an area that we can work and and improve.”
Marais was particularly disappointed with the nature of the Stormers’ third try, when a devastating rolling maul saw them destroy the Bulls pack as the moved the ball over 20 metres to the try-line seemingly uncontested.
“I think we stopped it quite well in the first half, but that last one was really disappointing … not up to standard,” said Marais.
The Bulls host the Rebels at Loftus this weekend.