Champions Cup: Bulls hoping to adapt better to referee interpretations

Bulls and Exeter Chiefs face off for the first time. Credit: Alamy
Bulls and Exeter Chiefs face off for the first time. Credit: Alamy

Bulls forwards coach Russell Winter wants his side to be adaptable to the referee in their Champions Cup clash against Exeter Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld.

The Pretoria side will be without director of rugby Jake White who is recovering from an emergency operation, with backline coach Chris Rossouw in charge of the side.

The Bulls sent a weakened team to Exeter in round two of the competition and was thoroughly beaten 44-14 on the day, conceding many penalties in the process.

Adaptability is key

Winter has called for the Bulls to play towards the referee’s interpretation of the laws and avoid being penalised easily.

“(Avoid conceding breakdown penalties) by learning really quick and by making sure that we adapt really quickly on the field,” Winter said.

“Our local and overseas refs do have different interpretations, and just like us in this new competition, they have to get synergy amongst each other so that they can get consistency in their calls.

“The breakdown, as you’ve seen… You’ll play one week at home and do one roll for a placement, and then you play overseas and they will pin you.

“We’ve got to make sure we adapt nice and early and pick up those trends in the game, and that is where Ruan (Nortje) is fantastic – he is someone who can pick these things up so quickly and relay the message to the team.”

The forwards coach is determined for the Bulls to win the collision point against Exeter, which will go a long way in securing a result.

Fire with fire

Winter expects an intense match, one made even more so by the heat and altitude of Loftus Versfeld.

“Me as a coach – it’s always fight fire with fire… It’s never any other way. You’ve got to front up on Saturday. Rugby is a collision sport – if you don’t win the collisions, you don’t win the game. And what helps us is the consistency. We train things week in and week out, and if we keep to those and stick to the system, it is there to protect the player,” he said.

“As long as we do that, we should do well. The teams that are good are those that can break down the patterns of play and systems that the other team bring to the table. Those are the ones who win the games.

“The intensity is definitely going to be higher, so we are going to have to go up a notch to get a win. If we are really not up physically and mentally on our game, then they might find some cracks.

“And then just our systems: we must make sure we do what we train, and then I think we’ll be okay.”

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