Wandisile Simelane. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/MARK KOLBE
Wandisile Simelane. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/MARK KOLBE

Bulls coach Jake White has showered his charges with praise after they displayed composure and fighting spirit in their Currie Cup semifinal win over the Lions at Loftus in Pretoria on Saturday.                        

The Bulls went to the break leading by 11 unanswered points but the Lions returned with more purpose in the second period to level the match 14-14 after 46 minutes following two tries in four minutes from Willem Alberts and Wandisile Simelane.

White was impressed that his players, led by Duane Vermeulen, were not rattled when their lead was suddenly obliterated and stuck to their game plan to eventually win the encounter 26-21.

“The nice thing about us is that we showed fighting spirit in the second half,” said White. “As I have said before, we won most second halves during the season where we used our bench effectively and our bench was nice and solid. When you are 14-0 up and two minutes later you are 14-all, some sides would start to panic. But we regrouped and showed a lot of composure.

“Obviously it is satisfying for me as a coach, and you must remember that some of these guys have not played for about four to five weeks. This was a performance in patches and I am very happy that we passed it and we have the final at the weekend.”

The win enabled the Bulls to qualify for their first Currie Cup final since 2009. They will face the Sharks in the  championship decider at Loftus on Saturday.

White said they controlled the tempo in the first half but expected the Lions to come back into the game and ask questions of his charges.

“In the first half we squeezed them and 11-0 was a true reflection of that, even though we didn’t have much of the ball,” he said. “Finals and semifinals are not about running from side to side and scoring six tries. It was always going to be an arm wrestle and the one thing the Lions have done consistently over the past couple of years is they come prepared and are never going to go away.

“I was always aware that they were going to make it tough for us,” said White.

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen was gracious in defeat and promised they would come back better next season.

“We will definitely relook our decision-making,” he said. “There were one or two times where we tried to force it back into our own half, which was unnecessary [as] we put ourselves under pressure.

“The message was clear at halftime, we gave them the ball easily in critical phases. But I was proud of the guys with the way they fought back early in the second half to score the two tries, and how they managed to play with 13 men in the closing stages.

“I am proud of the fighting spirit but obviously disappointed with the result. I can sit here and say the yellow cards to Marvin Orie and Willem Alberts were harsh, or it wasn’t harsh, but it is not going to make a difference,” said Van Rooyen.

“If you are playing with 13 men, you are up against it. I don’t think you will win any game with about 20 penalties against you. What happens when you concede penalties like that is you give the opposition momentum and the referee turns out to be a little bit more harsh against [you] anyway.”

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