Mon 11 Mar 2019 | 11:10

ANALYSIS: Rassie's Bok spine doing the job for Bulls

Bulls post-match presser after win over Sharks
Mon 11 Mar 2019 | 11:10
ANALYSIS: Rassie's Bok spine doing the job for Bulls

SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: The Bulls have emerged as South Africa’s leading light in the early stages of the competition.

The key to them going from the worst team in the SA Conference in 2018 to top of the totem pole can be found in some astute off-season acquisitions and the form of the players in their spine.


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Nowhere was it more evident than in their 37-14 demolition of the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld this weekend.

It was the spine of the team that was most influential – especially veterans Schalk Brits and Duane Vermeulen, players who could be key at the World Cup later this year.

The cynics had plenty to say when Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus brought Brits out of retirement last year and were even more derisive in their critique of the mentor when he took the 37-year-old on the year-end tour.

Questions about his productiveness were also raised in the build-up to the season.

At the weekend he went head-to-head with a Bok rival 10 years his junior and by all accounts came out smelling like a rose.

Vermeulen did not face the same level of critique as Brits, but if any doubt remained, he has managed to win over those carpers.

Pollard also finally settled any arguments over his position as South Africa’s premier flyhalf.

Jan de Koning takes a look at three critical head-to-head clashes in the Bulls’ win over the Sharks that explains why they are leading the South African charge.

Bulls versus Sharks stats

Schalk Brits versus Armand van der Merwe

Ten years in age separate the two and the chasm on the Loftus pitch was almost just as wide.

Brits’ workrate was phenomenal, even though he may have been upstaged in the ball-carried department by the Sale Sharks-bound Van der Merwe.

However, Brits’ basics were solid and on defence he outshone the younger man.

Schalk Brits
Carries = Eight
Metres carried = 14
Tackles made = 11
Tackles missed = One
Turnovers won = One

Armand van der Merwe
Carries = Nine
Metres carried = 50
Defenders beaten = Two
Clean breaks = One
Tackles made = Five
Tackles missed = One

Bulls versus Sharks stats

Duane Vermeulen versus Daniel du Preez

No contest!

Vermeulen has been simply sensational since his arrival in Pretoria this year.

A physical brute that is as effective with the ball in hand, as he is on defence. He averaged seven metres per carry to the five metres per carry of Du Preez – who like his twin brother Jean-Luc has also been linked to a move to Sale in England.

Duane Vermeulen
Carries = Five
Metres carried = 35
Defenders beaten = One
Tackles made = 14
Tackles missed = Two
Turnovers won = Three

Daniel du Preez
Carries = 14
Metres carried = 61
Defenders beaten = One
Clean breaks = One
Tackles made = Two
Tackles missed = One

Bulls versus Sharks stats

Handre Pollard versus Robert du Preez

Pollard has settled the argument. He is simply the best No.10 in South Africa.

His game management has been from the top shelve and his goal-kicking has also improved significantly.

Attacking the gainline is another aspect of his game that has come on in leaps and bounds.

Handre Pollard
Carries = Six
Metres carried = 31
Defenders beaten = Two
Tackles made = Nine
Tackles missed = One
Kicks out of hand = 10
Conversions = Two
Penalty-goals = Five
Drop-goals = One

Robert du Preez
Carries = Four
Metres carried = 10
Tackles made = Six
Tackles missed = One
Kicks out of hand = Six
Conversions = Two

By Jan de Koning

PV: 5190

Analysis: Rassie's Bok Spine Doing The Job For Bulls | Rugby365