Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Bulls and Lions sitting pretty, but there’s still work to do after URC break

The Bulls are the top SA team, lying second on the log. ahead of a two-week break.

The Bulls and Lions are happy teams as the United Rugby Championship (URC) breaks for another two weeks for the end of the Six Nations competition.

With the final two rounds of the Six Nations taking place over the next two weekends, there will be no URC action until the weekend of 22/23 March.

It has been a frustrating time for the South African URC teams during the Northern Hemisphere competition, as since the end of January they have had to deal with multiple weekends of no franchise action due to the Six Nations.

They now have two more weekends off before heading into a hectic end-of-season run that will see them playing every weekend for almost two-and-a-half months.

The two Highveld sides will thus be the happier of the local franchises ahead of that run after picking up thumping wins over their rivals over the past weekend.

Sitting pretty

The Bulls’ 40-22 win over the Stormers, which saw them break a seven-game losing run against their coastal rivals, has left the Pretoria side sitting pretty at second on the URC log and well on course to secure home playoffs come the end of the campaign.

However, coach Jake White stressed that his side must not get ahead of themselves, explaining that they still had plenty of work to do.

“I must reinforce that we haven’t won anything (yet). We’ve won a game, it’s a pool game and we happened to stay ahead of them,” White said after the momentous result.

“But we have won nothing. We are not going to get ahead of ourselves. You are not going to see things on social media where we start posting things about being the best team that’s ever played rugby. Part of being a coach is to get young boys to understand that.”

For the ninth-placed Stormers they now find themselves in a strange position after two dominant URC campaigns. They are outside the top eight and under a bit of pressure, and though they should still make the competition playoffs, they may miss out on hosting any games.

Bouncing back

On the Lions front, they bounced back from a four-game losing run in all competitions with their 40-10 win over the Sharks at Ellis Park, which brought them right back into the top-eight fight.

It has been a major goal of the Johannesburg side to make the competition playoffs, after finishing outside of the top eight the past two campaigns, and they now sit 11th on the log, just three points behind Benetton in eighth.

“We really feel that throughout the season we have been thereabouts. It has just been small moments and little disciplines that prevented us from getting a few more wins,” said coach Ivan van Rooyen.

“So getting this result in essentially a must-win game for us was obviously pleasant. I think once we get going on tour (in three weeks) we play nine or 10 games in a row, which actually helps us because we can get into our rhythm and keep on going.

“The last six weeks was stop-start. So getting this result after the last four to six weeks of training and off days and more training and more off days is nice to see.”

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