Cape Town - Former Springbok hooker James Dalton has laid into the Bulls after a woeful 2018 Super Rugby season which saw the Pretoria-based side finish bottom of the South African Conference.
Dalton, who played 41 Tests for the Springboks, didn't hold back when asked for his views on the current Bulls side under coach John Mitchell.
Question: John Mitchell’s Super rugby record reads as follows: 37% at Western Force (5 seasons), 19% with Lions (2 seasons) and 37.5% at the Bulls (1 season). Thoughts?
Dalton: The statistics certainly show that those are the facts. Yes, I think we are obsessed. We do certainly get obsessed with All Black rugby, New Zealand Rugby... their dominance, their skill levels, how much better they are than South African rugby players...
The Bulls have been absolutely woeful this season. And what concerns me about the Sharks, Stormers and Bulls is their inability to perform consistently week in and week out. The skill level of our top players - who are professionals training every single day, twice a day, five days a week - is absolutely pathetic. It’s absolutely laughable.”
Question: Did you expect more of John Mitchell’s Bulls this season?
Dalton: Certainly I did. Everybody sang their praises. But again, inconsistent, one game good, one game bad... and totally one-dimensional. They don’t have the ability to vary a game plan. They play one type of game plan under Mitchell. We saw some really good backline play from Jesse Kriel and Handre Pollard, but that also died a quick death. It became that short-ball, one play at a time, taking it up, nothing happens, slow ball, a kicking game that they can’t even play. And then this lineout drive five or 10m metres from the opponents’ tryline... numerous times it didn’t work for them, but they carried on and on and on with it. There wasn’t even a variation on it.”
Question: On Mitchell’s notion that they need better players?
Dalton: I actually can’t believe that comment, that a coach after a bad season blames the quality of the players. He is responsible for it. Why does he not refund his salary and rather resign if he’s saying the players are not good enough? It’s unacceptable, yes I do believe that our skills level at time is inconsistent. However, it comes down to the coaches... what they instil in the players. Their game plans, their ability to amend their game plans, and their team selections.
In the five previous editions of Super Rugby in the current 15-team format, the Bulls won the following number of matches in the regular season:
2011 - 10
2012 - 10
2013 - 12
2013 - 7
2014 - 7