Botha: Bulls loss not a 'train smash'
The Bulls may have been on the receiving end of a Leinster hiding at the weekend, but seasoned loose forward Arno Botha is adamant they will improve enough to stay in the play-off race.
In what was a disastrous opening weekend for South African teams in the United Rugby Championship, the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers lost – with the Lions the only South African team to record a win.
The 29-year-old, who played both his Springbok Tests in 2013, said the Pretoria outfit will improve.
Botha, one of a handful of players in the squad who are familiar with playing in Europe following a two-year stint at Irish province Munster, indicated that the side was not deflated by the defeat to four-time European Cup champions, Leinster.
Botha said the gap between the South African teams and their European counterparts may not be as big as it looks on the scoreboard – a 3-31 loss for the Bulls.
“Some things just happened in the game,” he said from the team’s base in Galway – where they are preparing to face off against another Irish powerhouse in Connacht.
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“We are not in a negative space,” he said, adding that they may have been caught up in the excitement of the moment a bit.
“There isn’t such a big gap in terms of rugby knowledge and physicality.
“There were some defying moments in the game that prevented us from staying in the contest.”
He pointed to the equally discomfiting loss to Benetton in the Rainbow Cup Final and the ‘step up’ they made after that setback.
“We can only get better from here.
“It’s not going to be a train-smash, we will make that step up.
“On the day they just caught us [cold],” he said, adding: “It’s not the end of the world, it was only the first game and there are still 20 more games to play.”
He admitted Leinster did play at a higher tempo than the Bulls, but added that is one of the aspects in which the Bulls WILL make a step up.
Botha expects another touch encounter against Connacht at the Sportsground in Galway on Friday.
“They say that playing in Connacht [Galway] is like playing in Kimberley, but totally different.
“It’s not going to be dry and hot, but it’s going to be cold and wet.
“We know they will just keep coming at us, and it will be a nice battle. It will be wet and we will have to be more clinical.”