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Shocking. That’s the only way to describe the Bulls’ performance against the Hurricanes which they lost 50-22. But of greater concern must be the general standard of play by South Africa’s five franchises – the Stormers excepted – in the past weekend’s matches.


The Lions, Bulls and Cheetahs now take up the last three places on the Super 14 log, with a combined total of four victories and one draw in their 27 matches.


The unimpressive Sharks, who retained their unbeaten record with (another) somewhat lucky 19-17 win against the lowly Highlanders – who boast only one win, against the Lions last weekend -and the Stormers, with an impressive 34-22 win over the Cheetahs, kept the South African flag flying.


But overall, there are problems on attack and defence, as the log clearly shows.


Defending champions Bulls have conceded 36 tries in nine matches, the Cheetahs 35 and the Lions 26.


Only the Chiefs (30) and Blues are in the same unenviable league. That’s as far as the bottom sides are concerned.


Looking at the toothless Sharks, unbeaten and at number two on the Super 14 log, there is the disconcerting fact that only the Lions (13) have scored less tries in the Super 14 competition than the 16 of last year’s losing finalists, which is also the number scored by the Bulls.


The Sharks have also scored only 150 points so far. Only the Lions (124) have scored less. At least the Sharks’ miserly defence has leaked only nine tries, second only to Crusaders (8), to keep them in the hunt.


* “We were shocking,” Bulls captain Fourie du Preez admitted after their drubbing.


He couldn’t explain what the reason for the Bulls’ run of defeats is. Nor could coach Frans Ludeke, who is under severe pressure.


One of the reasons could be that senior players like Danie Rossouw and Bakkies Botha seem disinterested on the field.


And Ludeke can surely not be blamed if the tackles keep on slipping, the handling remains poor and the communication non-existent as three Bulls players would see a ball bounce between them.


It was also unbelievable to see the Hurricanes scrum the Bulls off the ball and at times run through their defence virtually unchallenged.


“We will look at our approach from hereon in,” said Ludeke.


“Perhaps some of the senior players need a break. We’ll tackle that this coming week,” he said after the match.


* The Stormers at times played some sublime rugby in their convincing win over the Cheetahs.


“The first half was wonderful,” coach Rassie Erasmus said afterwards. He was a little concerned about the second half, but that was probably to be expected after a 24-3 lead at the break.


His old friend and now coaching adversary Naka Drotske, in charge of the Cheetahs, said his team had to start playing for the full 80 minutes.


“This time we played only in the second half. In previous matches this is the period that cost us.”


* The Lions – with seven changes to their side that squandered a win against the Highlanders the previous week – played it tight and with spirit in the first half against what was essentially a second-string Crusaders side.


But after the break the home side started running it wide to score four converted tries and overturn a 3-6 halftime deficit to a 31-6 win.


* The Brumbies were at times impressive against the Blues in their 16-11 win and will have gleaned a lot of confidence before their match against the Sharks this weekend.


Likewise the Waratahs, who have leapfrogged the Blues and the Force to take up fourth place on the log after their 17-12 win over the latter, will be confident of adding to their six wins from eight matches when they play the Lions in Sydney on Saturday.


The Force will be waiting with bated breath on the news whether Matt Giteau will be fit to face the Reds on Friday. Giteau left the field with concussion in the first half against the Waratahs, and the Force were not the same after that.


Sapa – Super14.com   

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