VIDEO: Bulls finding their 'killer instinct'
WATCH as seasoned prop Lizo Gqoboka speaks about the Bulls’ first encounter with New Zealand opposition this year.
The first four games were against teams in their own conference – a 40-3 demolition of the Stormers in Pretoria, a 12-27 loss to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, a 30-12 win over the Lions in Johannesburg and a 37-14 victory over the Sharks in Pretoria.
On Saturday they will face their first New Zealand opposition, when they host the winless Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld.
Gqoboka dismissed the Chiefs’ lowly position – last on the standings, after four defeats and a draw, including going down to the Sunwolves in Hamilton.
He felt the Bulls will face a very “different” challenge than what they experienced in the first month of the competition.
“They are very unpredictable,” the 28-year-old said.
“They are playing great rugby, it is just that they have been unlucky.
“It is not that they are a bad side.”
Despite the Chiefs’ poor track record at Loftus – they have not won in Pretoria since 2003 – Gqoboka feels the Bulls will be tested in different areas of the game.
“They keep the ball more, it is high intensity,” the prop said, adding: “The South African teams and the Jaguares are more physical.
“It is like a Test match.”
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Despite their impressive record against the Chiefs at Loftus, the Bulls have struggled against New Zealand teams in recent years.
In fact in the last three years, 13 matches, the Bulls have won just twice against Kiwi teams – beating the Crusaders (31-19 in 2015) and the Hurricanes (21-19 last year), both encounters in Pretoria.
“The guys in this [Bulls] team have all faced New Zealand teams,” Gqoboka said, adding: “They know what is coming on Saturday.
“While they play an expansive game, the still put a lot of emphasis on their set pieces.”
He pointed out that Bulls, as a group, has been together for a few years now and they are finally reaping rewards – with some impressive results in 2019.
One of the success stories is the massive improvement in the Bulls’ scrums, with the assistance of scrum guru Daan Human – on loan from the Cheetahs.
Human, capped four times by the Springboks, is assisting the Bulls as scrum coach two days a week, while the remainder of the time he spends with the Cheetahs in their Pro14 campaign.
His experience of more than a decade in Europe, where he made 169 appearances for French club Toulouse, is showing in the Bulls improved set pieces.
“Daan is a world-class coach,” Gqoboka said, adding: “It is great working with him.
“He has experience of having played abroad [in France].
“We are taking steps in the right direction.”
He spoke of the ‘killer instinct’ the team has developed.
“It is our finishing [ability],” he said, adding: “We played good rugby last year, we just couldn’t finish.
“We couldn’t maintain it for the full 80 minutes.
“This year we maintain that [intensity] for the full 80 or 100 minutes.”
He said they had experienced players in the system for the last two years, but are only reaping the rewards now.
“When you try a new system it takes time to come together.
“We had a lot of Springboks in the team – it was just a matter of clicking as a team and keeping the same group together.”