It was Lions coach Swys de Bruin‚ and not his grizzled Bulls counterpart John Mitchell‚ who delivered some home truths in the aftermath of the trans Jukskei derby.
Although the Bulls are in the throes of a revival and have embraced a new free-spirited playing style‚ the Lions went all medieval on their rivals by using their muscle men upfront to beat the hosts into submission.
The 49-35 scoreline flatters the Bulls a tad but they did play with 13 players for a while due to ill-discipline.
"You can only play the game you want to play if your tight phases are up to scratch. That’s your bread and butter.
"Our bread and butter was good‚" De Bruin noted sagely.
The Lions’ driving maul proved the slow poison for which the Bulls had no antidote.
"Three of our tries were maul tries and that builds character in the pack‚ as well as confidence.
"Hats off to coach Philip Lemmer and Franco [Mostert] and the tight boys upfront‚ as well as Waza’s [Warren Whiteley’s] leadership."
Knowing what benefits could be derived from resultant mauls‚ De Bruin grudgingly acknowledged that the Lions had targeted the Bulls at line-out.
Part of the plan involved moving regular lock Franco Mostert to blindside flank, where he could provide more bulk in the tight loose along with the barrel-chested Cyle Brink — and it worked a treat.
Mostert soared higher than anybody else and passed his test with flying colours.
"I was nervous, but knowing Franco‚ he’s quick and he can run all over‚" said De Bruin. "He was absolutely unreal. That worked well. He can play seven or lock at any time."
Whiteley stressed the importance of having a plan and focusing on the things that matter.
"It is important for us not to get caught up in the hype‚" he said of all the pre-match talk about the Bulls’ revival under Mitchell. "We really wanted to focus on what we wanted to do, and we did phenomenally well‚ especially our pack."
With new Bok coach Rassie Erasmus installed last week several Lions’ players would have made an early impression.
"Rassie’s appointment brings clarity for everyone. First and foremost I think every player is focused on performing at their union. My focus is at the Lions‚" said Whiteley.
It is not just the players who seek recognition. The win at Loftus would have been a personal triumph for De Bruin, who had to pit his coaching wits against the streetwise Mitchell.
"I am an emotional kind of guy. I talk from the heart and the players know me like that. I don’t want to change, but I am very humbled by this win. Let’s not be fooled by one game. We said from the word go that this is one of 15 or 16 hurdles and we take one at a time. The worst thing we can do is get ahead of yourselves," said De Bruin
Whiteley agreed. "It is a good start, but we also know Super Rugby isn’t won in February and March. There is quite a lot to work on. Especially at the end where I thought we could have kept them out."