General Pollard in complete control

A clinical and disciplined performance from the Vodacom Bulls saw them outplay the Sharks 37-14 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

On 13 log points, the Bulls now top the South African Conference, and find themselves second overall on the combined log behind unbeaten defending champions, the Crusaders.

New signings Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits were again in outstanding form, providing the home side with a solid attacking platform. As such, skipper and pivot Handre Pollard again controlled the game superbly, notching up 22 points with the boot as the home side continued with their policy of taking all points on offer.

Early second-half tries from Jeremy Ward (cited post-match for an alleged tip tackle in the 13th minute) and Dan du Preez gave the Durban side hope after the restart, but they were never really in this game – despite dominating both the possession and territory stats.

They also notched up more carries, metres run and passes than the Bulls.

But it was an error-strewn affair for the Sharks, with a miscue on one in every 5 carries for a total of 22 handling errors. And at 5.7m per carry, they were well down on the home side, which speaks to their ineffectiveness in making use of the possession dominance they enjoyed, as do the 18 turnovers they conceded!

On the other side of the field, the home side made far fewer carries, and were happy to make many more tackles (151 compared to 86 from the Sharks).

Instead, they dominated the kicking stats to control the game. Carving off 855 metres from 26 kicks – 6 more than the visitors – the Bulls made 7 more metres per kick in a strategy aimed at finding grass rather than the touchline, thus forcing the Sharks into making some big decisions deep in their half.

A look at the match stats from Loftus:

Match information:

Points: BUL 37-14 SHA

Tries: BUL 3-2 SHA

Penalty goals: BUL 5-0 SHA

Goal kicking %: BUL 88% – 100% SHA

Possession: BUL 47% – 53% SHA

Territory: BUL 42% – 58% SHA

Ball in play: 31 minutes


Attacking stats:

Ball Carries: BUL 87-113 SHA

Metres run: BUL 570-641 SHA

Metres per carry: BUL 7-5.7 SHA

Line breaks: BUL 6-1 SHA

Tackle breaks: BUL 4-12 SHA

Passes: BUL 104-131 SHA

Good Passes: BUL 88-111 SHA

Offloads: BUL 10-13 SHA

Rucks won: BUL 51-82 SHA

Rucks lost: BUL 2-3 SHA

Turnovers conceded: BUL 11-18 SHA


Defensive stats:

Tackles made: BUL 151-86 SHA

Tackles missed: BUL 28-15 SHA

Tackle success: BUL 86% – 87% SHA

Tackle turnover: BUL 6-2 SHA

Dominant tackles: BUL 10-13 SHA

Turnovers won: BUL 2-3 SHA


Kicking stats:

Kicks from hand: BUL 26-20 SHA

Metres kicked: BUL 855-512 SHA

Metres per kick: BUL 33-26 SHA


Error stats:

Handling errors: BUL 14-22 SHA

Error rate (per carry): BUL 6.2-5.1 SHA

Penalties conceded: BUL 2-7 SHA

Yellow cards: BUL 0-0 SHA


First phase stats:

Lineouts won: BUL 9-15 SHA

Lineouts stolen: BUL 0-1 SHA

Scrums won: BUL 10-2 SHA

Scrums lost: BUL 1-1 SHA

Own kickoff won: BUL 0-0 SHA

Own kickoff lost: BUL 3-9 SHA

- All Out Rugby

Let's chat

  • SweetAz

    Snaaaaaks,-lol. Cue complaints about the ref.

  • SweetAz

    I heard some guy Gerry Atric had a good game, apparently, he’s so good Anker vd Merwe is leaving the country.

    • Barry

      Yes, agreed, Britz was fantastic, the stats do the talking (Brits Vs VDM):

      Runs: 9/8
      Meters run: 50/14
      Clean breaks 1/0
      Defenders beaten 2/0
      Turnovers 1/1
      Missed tackles 1/1
      Line outs won 13/6

      So worthy Man of the Match certainly!

      Oh, wait, the first line of stats are VDM’s not Britz!!! Oops, a bit embarrassing, particularly when you add to Britz’ tally, one late tackle on Smith and that laughable quick penalty tap that he spilled!

      No disrespect to the old guy , but the stats say it all.

      The only question really, is who decided on the MOTM award and what favour were they repaying and to who?

      • John Comyn

        No disrespect to you Barry but the match stats suggest The Sharks won this game by a country mile. That’s, of course, if stats don’t lie!

        • Barry

          Not quite John, the stats will tell you that the Bulls won this by making more tackles, making less mistakes and taking their kicks when on offer. Only one try difference, the penalty kicks made the difference!

    • Barry

      Your very graceful in victory, even starting to sound like a New Zealander!

      • SweetAz

        Lol, not a Bulls supporter,—-just like to rub salt in open wounds

        • Barry

          Yeh, we’re biltong, now go and play with your sheep!

  • Barry

    I suggested before the season kicked off that the Sharks would battle without Dick Muir in 2019 and what do you know!

    They had more than enough possession to have taken that game, but they simply had no clue what to do with it! Muir was on board as attack coach, but the reality is that he brought with him a life time of experience and strategy. The strategy is what’s missing!

    Much was toted about David Williams the new attack coach – we were told how well he did at the Kings – yeh, that’s right the team that was relegated!

    The question is, do the Sharks Management have the fortitude to address this, or will mediocrity be allowed to prevail?

    • Jay

      I have to agree with you Barry. Looking at the Sharks side ON PAPER they should be sitting with numerous super rugby titles by now. They have a strong pack of forwards as you have suggested in one of your previous posts, a flyhalf that can kick and take the ball flat, distributing centres and blistering pace in the back three and yet somehow they fall short every year.

      I was just wondering today how much of a difference would it make if a coach like Dave Rennie (or similar) was to take the helm for the remainder of this season and beyond?

      Just to pre answer any of the type of feedback we usually get with a question like this; I personally consider all the Sharks players deserving of their spot ie no ‘quota’ players so politics should not need to play a part in this question

    • Safmarine

      The Saarks do need an attack coach – maybe Joel can help them do something sublime.

  • Barry

    There is unfortunately more that needs addressing at the Sharks – and it’s not new!

    Some may recall a fairly successful 2017 for the Sharks, particularly from a forwards perspective, as they were largely forward dominant and had a good set piece. This miraculously fell to pieces in the Curry Cup final of that year, coinciding with changes in coaching structures.

    Ryan Strudwich, largely accountable for their forwards success was sacked, with seemingly no just cause and was replaced by unknown Jaco Pienaar, a friend of Du Preez. Their scrum has effectively not operated properly since then, yet it is predominantly the same group of players!

    It was sickening to watch Thom Du Toit getting scrummed in the second half on Saturday, but if you have the opportunity for a re-look see how Jacque Vermeulen was positioned on the flank, offering his tight head almost no support. I am not getting at Vermeulen, the point I make is that their scrum as a whole is poorly drilled. The props are taking the criticism, but scrumming is an 8 man affair and can only be successful if all eight players are suitably drilled and working in cohesion!

    • Winger

      No, Thomas du Toit is just not a good scrummager. Sorry. everybody wants a big unit like him to succeed, but he just does not have the attitude. To be a good tighthead you have to actually like the position. It is not an easy position. Thomas is there because the queue on the loosehead side is too long.

      • Barry

        You really don’t like him do you?

        He scrummed just fine in National colours, hence my view that Sharks need a relook at their scrum coach!

        Thom is there because Erasmus asked for him to play 3 – you’ve probably forgotten that we were pretty thin on tigh heads last year.

        Whilst Thom is battling a bit st scrum time he is an absolute handful around the park. By contrast, your Melherbe is also battling at scrum time, but he’s also anonymous in other areas of the park. Surely a more worthwhile subject to “Whinge” about?

        • Winger

          I am not a great Malherbe fan. He merely provides stability. We need a dominant tighthead, because our back line is quite average.

          It is unfortunately a zero sum game. If your tighthead retreats, it removes a flanker and an eighth man from the next couple of phases. So, you have this very active and mobile tighthead, but you loose two loose forwards in every play after the scrum. If your tighthead holds his own, it gives the loose forwards more mobility. If he dominates, the opposition loose forwards are are on the back foot. If you have a weak tighthead, you give all of this up for a more mobile prop. It does not compute.

          And yes, I really don’t like Thomas. He is a disappointment. He has so much potential in his sheer bulk. He should be dominating scrums. If you could combine that with his mobility, you would have a winner. Unfortunately you have a ninny at scrum time.

  • Wesley

    I think its fair to say, after the first round of SA derbies, that the Bulls have now overtaken all SA franchises for honors as the top SA team, well done to them. All by whipping the others proper. As a Lions fan it pains me, but so is sport. Lions are back to building again. If Bulls keep this up, it will be a CRU vs BUL final at Christchurch. Calling it now, any takers?

    • Barry

      Wesley, the changes at the Bulls are not monumental! The fundamental difference from last year to this is their points difference. They had -61 last season and are currently on +63, so they have sorted out their defense, that simple. Their buy-in’s have I am sure added to it, but by and large it’s the defense that is making the difference!

      Would agree with John, still early days. There will be injuries and Springboks rested and as ever the travel issue!

    • John Comyn

      Bit premature Wesley. While the Bulls do look like the real deal everything will be revealed when the SA sides tour down under. We have seen how things can unravel if a side has a bad tour. As far as your side goes, they are in a rebuild phase and there is plenty to suggest they have some good talent coming through. They scored some good tries on Saturday even if defense was nonexistent from both teams

  • Wesley

    I agree there John, although I can only see the Bulls having the firepower to do very well on tour over a long spell. They have more depth compared to the other SA franchises, the Aussie conference is a toss up as the Rebels are the only clear threat, and NZ seems they only have 3 teams in the running this time instead of the usual 4. Hence I’m calling Bulls topping SA conference, hopefully bagging top 2 overall, playing Loftus in the semis and having to go the Christchurch for the final. Pretty much the same route the Lions took last year having beat all SA teams on their way. If they have to settle for 3rd overall, Rebels seems the likely opponent, but could be done in Melbourne if they play like they doing at the moment.

    Sharks could pull some out the bag, they have done well on the NZ leg over the past few, but smothering defensive tactics they struggle with. I predict they will beat the Lions next month though. The Lions don’t have the depth to keep up over a long comp and their game management seems poor. 4 damned tries in the last quarter is atrocious, the bonus point was right there… Same with the Stormers, although i do see them doing better this time around, but only slightly.

  • Herman Schroder?

    While agreeing that the Bulls are much improved on the past few years the question that has not been answered as to how they will handle teams that know what to do with the ball with speed, skill and vision. The stats on this game point to the obvious fact that the Sharks were their usual inept selves when trying to play effective expansive rugby even while dominating most facets of play. Some of the Aussie teams and most of the NZ teams will not be so limp and the Bulls conservative approach will be sorely tested.

    They have already had one loss AWAY to a very ordinary Jags outfit that were so poor even the junior Lions team beat them away and flogged them at home as well. As previously mentioned the beating of the inept Sharks was almost a formality. Then an easy klap of the Stormers team who without that burgled Lions match would be basically where they ended up last year. So what have they really proven so far ?

    Most of the domkraggers are now crowing about their adoption of traditional Bok strengths in their game which to them has elevated the Bulls team to almost superstar status. It’s a pity that they have not taken cognizance of the fact that traditional Bok rugby has not won us a trophy in any competition these past nine years. ( I know, repeat, repeat repeat , lol )

    What was for me the real strength of the Lions these past three years was their ability to chase games due to their expansive mindset which they could switch on when needed. What was also obvious to me was that the dom krag approach usually fell short when skill and vision on attack was required to haul in the opposition. In other words unless they built an early lead the domkraggers normally ended up short. History proves it.

    Having said that I have seen a little more adventurous play by the Bulls this year and lets hope they can balance their game going forward, dom krag can only get you so far.

    As for the Lions well the ease with which these juniors put the Jags away twice is very encouraging but I agree with Wesley the last five minute melt down was atrocious in the extreme. Missed out on a bonus point win in the burgled loss to the Stormers as well as a bonus point in this game. That’s five points which would have put them in top spot in the Conference. Let’s hope they can improve markedly going forward. A revitalized Rebels will be a huge challenge this weekend. Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      So the “inept” domkraggers have beaten all 3 SA franchises quite comfortable playing complete rugby, the only hiccup was in Argentina in the rain yet Herman Goering keeps up his propaganda that the Lions are the only team in SA that can play rugby.
      It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragically stupid and repetitive.

      • Johan

        “So the “inept” domkraggers have beaten all 3 SA franchises…”

        I didn’t know the Sharks beat all 3 SA franchises?

        “…the Sharks were their usual inept selves…”
        “…the inept Sharks was almost a formality…”

        Sweeeeeeeety can you read?

        • SweetAz

          Historically, according to Herman EVERYBODY other than Lions are inept domkraggers, the Sharks just happened to win his lollipop this week. We all know he thinks the Bulls are the pinnacle of Domkrag,–I’m no Bulls fan by any means, in fact, I think Naas Botha put SA rugby back 20 years but I am impressed with the way they are managing the game, the way they use Rosco and the obvious leadership gelling between Duane and Pollard.
          I must confess, I didn’t read it word for word,—I rarely do as it seems to be mostly a copy and paste with little variation,–my bad.

          • Herman Schroder?

            SweetAz or maybe you have concentration and comprehension problems. Sure explains a lot. I twice indicated that the Bulls were much improved and showing a more balanced approach. Typical case of the keyboard rattling before the brain kicks in ? Cheers.

  • Dean Bright

    Even a half firing Pollard, still manages a game better than Jantjies.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Dean. When Pollard takes his team to 3 consecutive SR finals we’ll talk again. Anyway before then let’s see how he handles the NZ / Aussie teams this year before granting him ‘superstar’ status. Wins against the local teams has never been an achievement in years past going by their log positions at the end of the pool stages. If you can recall his Bok form was also pretty patchy last year. Still a long way to go for old Polly I’m afraid. Cheers.

      • Gunter

        Are you serious about Pollard? Jantjies is not even worth mentioning in the same article than Pollard. Pollard is in top form. Jantjies in top form is not even average as a SR flyhalf.

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