The young Bulls team Jake White sent to Nelspruit for their Currie Cup match against the Pumas on Sunday may well have been extremely talented, but they also made a million mistakes as they were humbled in a 44-14 defeat to the home side.
The Bulls conceded a plethora of penalties, many of them at the scrum, where the Pumas were hugely dominant, but others were just down to ill-discipline or not knowing the laws of the game properly. Those penalties ensured the Pumas bossed both the territory and possession stats.
But when the Bulls did have the ball, they also made several handling errors and conceded turnovers, meaning they were not able to make use of their opportunities. They also made mistakes in setting up their driving mauls, which robbed them of another attacking weapon.
When one adds a defence that was occasionally disorganised and a number of one-on-one tackles being missed, then the reasons for the heavy defeat are clear.
With coach White excluding most of the players who he will call on for their semifinal against the Lions on January 23, it was a case of U-21s against seniors in Nelspruit.
But full credit to the Pumas, who put their run of defeats behind them and produced a fine display of rugby, largely cutting out the errors that dogged the Bulls. Their set-pieces were excellent, their maul effective, and in open play they used the ball with dashing, while also defending well and competing effectively at the rucks.
The Pumas, retaining impressive hunger and drive at the end of a tough season, started in clinical fashion and by scoring five tries in the first 25 minutes they had effectively already shut the Bulls out of the match by racing to a 31-0 lead.
The Bulls eventually made it on to the scoreboard after half an hour through a rolling maul try by debutant hooker Joe van Zyl.
The visitors managed to keep the Pumas out better in the second half, apart from a second fine solo try by flyhalf Devon Williams.
And the Bulls’ debutant inside centre Dawid Kellerman managed to take something out of the game with a good individual try of his own.
Pumas – Tries: Luther Obi, Etienne Taljaard, Devon Williams (2), Willie Engelbrecht, Daniel Maartens. Conversions: Ginter Smuts (4). Penalties: Smuts (2).
Bulls – Tries: Joe van Zyl, Dawid Kellerman. Conversions: Morne Steyn, Clinton Swart.