The Bulls and the Stormers are feeling the effects of prolonged combat following the former’s 33-23 Super Rugby win at Loftus on Saturday.
Despite recent home wins over the Blues and the Reds‚ the Stormers in particular appeared more leaden footed against their traditional rivals.
“We are looking forward to that bye‚” sighed Stormers coach Robbie Fleck about the prospect of getting time off after next week’s clash against the Lions at Ellis Park.
“The next three weeks in terms of our draw is going to be pretty tough. We are now going into our eighth week without a bye. We are scraping the barrel in terms of the load on the players so we have to be careful how we train this week.
“It is away from home (against the Lions) and the Sharks away after our bye. Those are obviously important games. It is a big one for us and we need to be mentally and physically fresh.
“It is our away form which is hurting us. To walk away from this game without a bonus point is pretty tough‚” said Fleck.
Even winning coach John Mitchell is in a heightened state of anticipation at the prospect of giving his players some down time.
“We need the bye‚” nodded Mitchell.
“We had eight weeks of rugby and trials. It takes its toll mentally and physically. We are not in too bad shape.” Mitchell though was pleased at the resolve his players showed in the derby.
“It was a good win. We hung tough. We had a challenging week with flu and late replacements through niggles and injuries. The gees of the guys was just unbelievable.
“Sometimes in these games it becomes highly contestable and you have to learn to fight. You have to fight for longer and fight to the end.
“You’ve got to win these close one. We’ve let a couple go. In our building phase as a club I’d rather learn to get through this period now than perhaps have a run of bad results later down the track. Take hits now and learn how we can finish games.”
He was also chuffed with his team’s performance against a side that was purported to have the superior set of forwards.
“It is important to be patient at set piece and deny them access to structure in their game. What they showed was most of the things we’ve seen.”
The Bulls were particularly potent at the rolling mauls‚ which resulted in tries for hooker Adriaan Strauss.
“It is a really important area of the game. It sets the platform. It builds the scoreboard and creates pressure on the referee to award yellow cards for cynical play‚” explained Mitchell.
Fleck conceded his team weren’t up to scratch in that area.
“It was disappointing to concede two maul tries. We weren’t good. Our pack didn’t operate like it should have. We gave them too many opportunities.” His team’s poor discipline‚ particularly in the first quarter proved a huge setback.
“Our game management could have been better. I have to look at those penalties again. We knew they were gonna come hard in the first 20 (minutes) and that discipline was going to be important for us. It wasn’t a good performance in that regard.
“We produced a good fightback and surprisingly we were just one point behind at half time. I thought we would be better in the second half but I guess we had the same disease that we had in the first. No rhythm on our attack and making mistakes. It is not a game we are going to look into too deep‚ to be honest. We’ll move on.”