Matfield blamed for Bulls’ defeat

2010-10-19 00:00

WHILE the Sharks are looking ahead to the Currie Cup final against Western Province in Durban at the end of the month, Pretoria postmortems are blaming captain Victor Matfield for the Blue Bulls’ 16-12 defeat at King’s Park on Saturday.

The Bulls, trailing by four points, provided most of the late pressure in the semi-final against the Sharks, but turned down three relatively easy penalties in looking for the winning try. First, replacement number eight Pierre Spies ran a tap penalty at the Sharks who smothered the move, and then, in the final 10 minutes, Matfield twice had flyhalf Morné Steyn setting up attacking lineouts from kickable penalties.

“I think there will be questions about one or two of the Bulls’ decisions to rather go for touch,” former Springbok flyhalf Hennie le Roux told News24.

“We know the ability that the Bulls have to get a vice-like grip on opponents. Had they goaled one penalty, they could have managed to get themselves into a similar position for another kick.”

Le Roux said the rain of the second half should have helped the Bulls to a win.

“It was as if the Bulls were just waiting to get the momentum. It never happened, but the Sharks’ defence was excellent. They also did well early on to keep the ball away from the Bulls. They played with passion and commitment.”

Gary Teichmann, the former Sharks and Springbok captain, said the Sharks were hungrier for the victory and it showed in their defence.

“I think the Sharks’ commitment and hunger won the game. But there were also mistakes by the Bulls. I think they should have gone for posts near the end,” he said.

Matfield has successfully chosen the lineout option instead of penalties late in big games and admitted he was surprised it did not pay off on Saturday.

“We had those two attacking lineouts and we normally score from those positions. We expected to, but the Sharks defended strongly. It is well done to them.”

Sharks coach John Plumtree admitted he had been concerned when the Bulls set up the two late lineouts.

“We know just how big and dangerous they are when they drive those lineouts and we had prepared for that all week. I’m proud of the way we defended, but it really was heart- attack stuff.”

In Cape Town, Western Province captain Schalk Burger is already looking ahead to the final and telling reporters what is required to win it for the first time since 2001.

“It will come down to the team that handles the pressure the best and takes their chances.”

Burger said that nothing could be read into Province’s recent Currie Cup round-robin win over the Sharks at Newlands.

“A final is a completely different matter,” said Burger. “You only get one chance and the Sharks team will look different to the one that played against us at Newlands.”

The bookies have already installed Province as favourites, but both coaches, the Sharks’ Plumtree and Allister Coetzee (WP), are both eager to grab the underdog label.

“We haven’t got the star players that the Bulls and Province have got, so we expect to be underdogs again in the final,” said Plumtree.

Coetzee said the Sharks “would be favourites at home, but it’s a challenge we are looking forward to”.

“The Sharks have a very big and physical pack. There are few weaknesses and it is a massive challenge. They have players that are on form, a loose forward combination that complement one another well with good ball-carriers in Keegan Daniel and Willem Alberts, and they are very competitive at the breakdowns.”

Free State coach Naka Drotské, speaking after his team had been thumped 31-7 in the semi-final at Newlands, is convinced Province will win the final if they can avoid conceding turnover possession.

“The Sharks score 70% of their tries off turnovers, so you have to play low-risk rugby,” said Drotské.

“It will be difficult for the Sharks to score tries from set phases with WP’s defence or to take the ball through phases.

“The important thing is to not concede turnover possession. I believe WP have everything in their armoury, but it will be tough on the Sharks’ home ground.”

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford said yesterday that wing JP Pietersen’s hamstring strain was the only injury concern.

“We are hoping to have a full squad ready for the final,” he added.

Both Coetzee and Plumtree said they will be resting their players this week to freshen them up for the final, which will be refereed by Craig Joubert.

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