Mapoe urges Bulls teammates to get their United Rugby Championship campaign on track

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Bulls utility back Lionel Mapoe, in a scrum cap, celebrates with teammates after he scored a try during the Currie Cup final against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld recently.
Bulls utility back Lionel Mapoe, in a scrum cap, celebrates with teammates after he scored a try during the Currie Cup final against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld recently.
Image: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images

Bulls utility back Lionel Mapoe has admitted that they let themselves down during the heavy loss to Irish side Leinster in the opening round of the United Rugby Championship (URC) last weekend.

The Bulls, who went into the inaugural URC competition on a high after they won the Currie Cup, were convincingly thrashed 31-3 at the Aviva Stadium with their hosts scoring four unanswered tries.

In fact, it was an underwhelming weekend for SA teams as the Stormers lost 22-18 to Italian side Benetton, the Sharks were thrashed 42-17 by Irish side Munster and the only team to win were the Lions who beat Italian side Zebre 38-26.

“I just think that we let ourselves down and going forward there are a number of things that we must work on,” he said as they prepared for their second match of the competition against another Irish side, Connacht, on Friday.

“We must show that we are better than how we played in the first match against Leinster because when you look at the score it is not a reflection of who we are as a team.”

Mapoe said they have to adapt quickly as playing  in a new competition and against new opposition is not going to be easy.

“We knew that coming this side we were going to have to adapt, obviously certain refereeing calls will sometimes go for us in SA and they won’t go for us here. We can’t actually focus on the refs because we don’t prepare for them, we can’t focus on how the ref blows the game, we just have to focus on what we need to do in the game.

“We always knew that the conditions are going to be challenging, we just have to adapt accordingly and not make silly mistakes because when you make mistakes at this level you will be punished.”

He added that the transition to the Bulls since he joined them from Stade Francais in France in June has been good and he is getting back to his best.

“The transition was actually very easy because all the players accepted me into the team very well. I have been in teams where there was unhappiness but it is a different story here.

“When I came to the Bulls, everybody was inviting me into the circle and they have accepted me, that was pretty awesome and it helped me to focus fully on playing my rugby.

“A couple of weeks ago I had a niggle but that’s all in the past now. I am starting to feel like I am getting into the best shape that I want to be because of the stuff that I work. I always work to go into the next level, and it has been exciting and we played well in the Currie Cup and a new challenge waits us in this competition.”

URC fixtures (SA teams only):

Friday: Scarlets v Lions (8.35pm), Connacht v Bulls (8.35pm)

Saturday: Glasgow Warriors v Sharks (4pm), Munster v Stormers (8.35pm)