The Brumbies may not be in the top half of the Super 14 table, but their game has undergone an “evolution” that makes them a very dangerous outfit.
According to Bulls defence coach John McFarland his team faces a tall order if they want secure back-to-back wins on Australian soil for only the second time – when they go head-to-head with the Brumbies in their final tour match in Canberra on Friday.
Despite the Bulls’ impressive 20-6 triumph over the Waratahs in Sydney last week, the men from Pretoria know they will have to raise the bar to secure a win this week.
“The Brumbies have undergone an evolution this year,” McFarland said of a team that is just one win outside of a top-four spot, despite currently sitting in ninth place on the standings.
“I think they play very different rugby to what they have played in the last two years,” McFarland told rugby365.com, adding: “They play much more pragmatic rugby.”
He felt that Andy Friend, in his first year as head coach of the Brumbies, have also improved the Brumbies’ defensive abilities – which showed in their victories over the Stormers and Cheetahs in recent weeks.
“We know it is a tall order and not many teams win in Canberra,” McFarland said of his team’s final match on their Australasian tour.
He also pointed to the fact that only two South African teams have won in Canberra since Super Rugby went professional in 1996 – the Bulls with a win in 2007 and the Sharks beating the Brumbies back in 1998.
Overall the Brumbies’ home record is 68 wins from 86 starts – a 79 percent winning margin.
“We realise how hard the task is and we know we have to be at the top of our game to get a result there,” the Bulls’ defence coach added.
The Bulls have shown some pretty impressive defensive form as well – keeping the Waratahs tryless at the weekend – which was the first time in two years that the men from Sydney had failed to score a try.
“We are really proud [of that defensive effort],” he told Rugby365.com’s Jan De Koning from the team’s base in Sydney, where they are preparing for Friday’s game.
“We knew we needed to get a result there [in Sydney], as it is getting towards the business end of the tournament and results are vital for every side now at the top end of the table.
“The Waratahs are right up there and that result is like an eight-pointer. Also, the points you get off teams like that really help you.”
He said the ELVs have forced his team to make some adjustments to their defensive approach, but not much.
“Obviously you have a lot more free kicks and fewer set pieces in the game,” McFarland said.
“We have always tried to adapt to what various teams put in front of us, but what was most pleasing for me at the weekend was that our kicking game and our chasing off kicks were exceptional.
“It was definitely an advantage for us in that game – we won 60 to 70 percent of our high kicks back and that also puts the opposition under a lot of pressure.”
He dismissed the notion that the Bulls could stumble over the ‘last game on tour hurdle’.
“It is important that we get our one-percenters right this week,” he said, adding: “All those little things that make a difference to a game – like how you chase a kick, how you put pressure on, how you get up off the floor, all the unseen things.
“We must make sure those are really good for us this weekend.
“If they are not good enough the Brumbies is certainly a team that can hurt you.”
He said it is important for the Bulls to keep their “attitude right” and their “intensity and enthusiasm” as high as it was last weekend against the ‘Tahs.
“We have trained in an absolute downpour [on Monday] and the players were out for an hour and I can assure you they have trained really well,” he said.
He said the team has been an absolute pleasure to coach this tour and described the squad as first class.
“The big difference is we’ve got guys on their fourth, fifth and sixth tour.
“They have done a lot and have gone through a lot together – they are so professional and know what is needed and what is needed this week.”Tweet