Lions captain Warren Whiteley, while pleased with a bonus-point Super Rugby victory over the Bulls away from home, has urged his team to be more ruthless in closing out games.
The Lions led 21-9 in the first half and at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, but allowed the Bulls back into the contest to the extent that it was 21-21 early in the second half following Handré Pollard’s try.
The visitors then exploded into action to score 28 unanswered points for a 49-21 lead by the 71st minute but gave away two late touchdowns to end on 49-35.
Despite last year’s runners-up being unbeaten after three matches, Whiteley believes his team can get even better.
“It’s never easy coming to Loftus. Credit to the Bulls – I thought they played extremely well and put us under pressure. They played for 80 minutes, right until the end, and it was very admirable. We had to fight until the end,” the No 8 said.
“But definitely proud of the boys, especially our forwards. We are really happy with our mauls, and that set a good platform for us.
“Probably one or two soft moments, where we let them in. The way we started the second half, put ourselves under pressure. And also the way we finished the game, we let them in again, so we need to finish them off.”
Bulls stand-in captain Pollard – with regular skipper Burger Odendaal withdrawn due to injury – wasn’t too unhappy with the performance, but pointed to the two yellow cards received by prop Conraad van Vuuren and loose forward Nic de Jager within two minutes as the turning point.
“I thought that we really fought well. We were behind early and we came back and got the reward for some good pressure. But the yellow cards were just too much for us – 21 points in 10 minutes was too much,” Pollard said.
“It’s a lot of bits and pieces all round that we have to get better at – we’ve got to be sharper and stop the drives.”
The Lions will take on the Blues next at Ellis Park next Saturday, while the Bulls begin their tour Down Under against the Reds in Brisbane earlier on the same day.