AUDIO: Bulls ready for 'Connacht dogfight'
The Bulls are ready for Connacht to bring out the full bag of tricks and turn Saturday’s Round Six United Rugby Championship encounter at Loftus Versfeld.
Infamous for their ability to slow the game down to a crawl on the Highveld, the Bulls are keen to use the advantages they have in Pretoria’s location.
In-form utility back Devon Williams said the Bulls can capitalise on their homeground advantage on Saturday.
Having slipped from first to seventh in the standings after last week’s 23-31 loss to Edinburgh in the Scottish capital, the Bulls are determined to get back in the winner’s circle immediately.
However, they face a Connacht side that edged the Sharks 13-12 in Durban – with some of those infamous delaying tactics on full display.
Back from their month-long European venture – which yielded 10 points from two wins and two defeats – the Bulls know that another loss will have dire consequences for their campaign.
“When we are overseas they [Connacht] know how to target certain areas [of our game],” he told @rugby365com.
“It’s the same when they come here [to Pretoria], they know it’s going to be a bit of a dogfight,” he added.
“There’s certain areas of the game they can target, to slow us down.
“The heat definitely plays a huge role here.”
He said in their reviews they got a good idea of how Connacht approach the game when playing in Europe.
(LISTEN as Bulls utility back Devon Williams chats to @king365ed about facing Connacht at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday…)
Their only look at the Irish province’s approach in South Africa this season was their 13-12 win over the Sharks in Durban last week.
“I definitely think they’ll have something up their sleeves this weekend, to change the game a little bit in their favour.”
The expected weather conditions (very hot, with blazing sunshine and a ‘real feel’ afternoon temperature of 38°C) and an of altitude of 1,350 metres above sea level will also impact on the visitors.
In a previous visit to the Highveld – a 33-30 win over the Lions at Ellis Park in April last year – their tactics to slow down the game became frustratingly obvious.
The most obvious was the number of ‘injuries’ to forwards, turning the game into a stop-start affair.
“It opens up more opportunities [for us] to throw the ball around a little more,” he said, adding” If we can speed up the tempo, it’ll be difficult for them to keep up – especially in the heat and with the altitude.
“They will have a trick up their sleeves to slow down the game a bit.
“If we can manage the game in that sense, we will be in the running.”
He added that they took a lot of positives from the tour, but now they must convert those positives and make Loftus a ‘fortress’.
Williams, 31, is on loan from the Pumas to the Bulls and enjoyed his first appearance on a European stage.
It was an adjustment, having played more than 100 games for the Pumas since joining them in 2016.
His successes included a first-ever Currie Cup win for the Nelspruit-based outfit.
“Making the step is up to the player,” he said of the change from domestic to ‘international’ competitions.
“The guys around me [at the Bulls] have made it quite easy for me to step up and just slot in.
“However, it was easy to adapt with a great group of guys whose doors are always open.”
He told @rugby365com that both franchises give you the platform to ‘express yourself’.
“However, it’s up to the individual what you do about that,” Williams said.
“The Pumas and the Bulls approach the game with different styles.
“The way they prepare during the week, there is more an in-detail focus here at the Bulls.
“At the Pumas they look at a broader spectrum.”
Williams, who can also play wing and flyhalf, admitted that going on tour with the Bulls improved his game ‘significantly’.
There are other challenges to overcome – like being away from home for a month and playing on 4G pitches.
* Picture credit: @BlueBullsRugby