- Bulls mentor Jake White was ecstatic over his charges' gritty win over the Lions, especially given the Covid-19 disruptions they had to deal with.
- He was particularly pleased with the faith shown by the players in the system by turning around things after a slow start.
- His Lions counterpart, Ivan van Rooyen, lamented missed opportunities but believes there's enough to work with to return to Loftus next week as an even tougher opponent.
Call it a champion's pedigree or a maturing group of players with an increasingly unwavering belief in their abilities, but Bulls mentor Jake White was immensely proud of his team's gritty 22-15 victory over the Lions at Loftus on Wednesday evening.
They'd gone into the match on the back of a pronounced Covid-19 outbreak that robbed them of their first-choice backline and only managed three training sessions in essentially the last three weeks.
The win assures them of finishing top of the Currie Cup log for the first time since 2005 as well as a return semifinal meeting with their neighbours across the Jukskei next weekend.
"It was always going to be difficult (to get a decent start)," said White, referring to an opening period that saw them trail 0-9 thanks to the unerring boot of Lions fullback Tiaan Swanepoel.
"But I really have to compliment the guys for how they fought back. I think if you're going to ask what happened when they turn things around, we must note that it was always going to take a bit of time.
"We didn't have much of the ball and when we did, we turned it over. As soon as we held on and got some confidence, things changed."
The Bulls' director of rugby, interestingly, also noted that a six-match winning streak at home since local rugby's resumption means their opposition is now wary again of Loftus representing the fortress it was in past years.
"It's difficult again for teams to come play here," said White.
"That's part of what we're talking about consistently. I'm really happy. All the players contributed. What more can I say? We finish top, which is great for us."
While a robust forward display was one of the main ingredients to the victory, it was birthday boy Joey Mongalo's department that arguably shone brightest - the defence.
"The Lions are a very good attacking side. To have a display like that was very satisfying, but even more so with a new group of players. It just reinforces everything we've done," said White.
"Credit to Joey. He's been fantastic and this was a great birthday celebration for him."
Meanwhile, the Lions were left to rue a match where, on balance, they should've come even closer to a victory.
"We had some good opportunities and didn't take them. We made some crucial errors at crucial times and the result is disappointing," said Ivan van Rooyen, the Lions coach.
"At least now we have ten days to fix things and come back to Loftus to rectify things next week."
That said, the men from Ellis Park were comfortably competitive enough in this match to suggest a dash of clinical execution could make them an awkward prospect to face again.
"We can definitely take some confidence from this result," said Van Rooyen.
"The frustration is just that we didn't capitalise on opportunities. The set-pieces were fine and defence was good too. There are stuff to work on, but also a lot to work with."