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Bulls have all the numbers

A glance at Super Rugby's Round 11 stats would have you believe that the Bulls are doing everything right in their gameplan.

The Bulls have always prided themselves on line-outs, superior kicking game and hard-hitting tackles.

Round 11 would appear to have been a good one for the men from Pretoria, in their game against the Western Force, if you based it purely at the statistical information.

It is no surprise that Victor Matfield tops the line-outs won on their own throw, with seven.

While second row partner Paul Willemse topped the stolen line-outs with three.

Jacques du Plessis weighed in with 18 tackles, second only behind Force captain Matt Hodgson.

Even Bandise Maku, the reserve hooker for the Bulls, made the top five in the stats for turn-overs, nabbing two.

This information, on paper, would have you believe that the men from Pretoria are on top of their game – especially in forward-based play.

A team that is so commanding in the set phases, in this case the line-outs, should surely be dominating games and getting results?

This would seem to be Stormers' coach Allister Coetzee's belief anyway.

Coetzee told the media after his team's defeat to the Cheetahs that it is the lack of continuity, due to injuries to his line-out jumpers, that is the root cause of the Stormers' poor form.

But if the Bulls have this aspect secured, then what is it that the Bulls are lacking?

It is hard to even blame the backline when looking back to the Force game – a rain soaked stadium in Perth should have played right into the Bulls' forward dominated, kicking game plan.

I suppose, if hard-pressed into an answer on the Bulls, I would have to take a quote from Mark Twain: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Rugby is a game that is played on a field with heart and passion, not one that can be derived from mathematical equations.

And personally I don't believe the most successful South African Super Rugby team came into this year believing they would cover themselves in glory – a lack of passion, as well as players that departed abroad are taking there toll on the Bulls.

Zane Kirchner, Juandré Kruger, Wynand Olivier, Dewald Potgieter, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jacques Potgieter, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak have all left Pretoria for greener pastures overseas (eight out of nine of the Springboks).

It is not only the loss of personal, but the demotivational black hole that must leave at a franchise – why, as a youngster at the Bulls, would I want to play my heart out when my hero packs it in for a pay rise?

Statistics can often be helpful, but can more often than not be misconstrued – a fact that is proven when looking at the broader information.

The Cheetahs, who sit a comfortable second-last, top the tackle count in the competition: this can be read as a team who are defending with all their might and strangling teams into submission – it can also be read as a team that cannot hold onto the ball.

Furthermore, players like Willie le Roux top the running metres: does this mean the Cheetahs play-maker is cutting defences to ribbons, or simply running sideways and running out of ideas?

Perhaps the passion for the game is what is lacking entirely, Super Rugby offers fame and glory, but what is that when you could be offered Pounds and Yen?

It is my hope that rugby remains game for hooligans played by gentlemen and that these gentlemen remain true to the sport.

I would hate to see it go the other way and have passion be replaced with the Pound sterling.

By Darryn Pollock


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