Here comes the ‘disciplined’ Bulls

The Bulls, facing one of the least punished teams in the Super 14 competition, are determined to discard the tag as being an ill-disciplined outfit when they face the six-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.

The Bulls, having conceded the most penalties (70 in six outings) in the tournament so far, have been heavily penalised in their last two matches – games that were controlled by New Zealand referees.

Despite convincingly winning both their encounters against the Brumbies and the Waratahs, the Bulls were penalised 13 times in Canberra and 18 times in Sydney. This is in contrast to the four games before that – controlled by Australian and South African referees – in which they never conceded more than 10 penalties.

The Bulls, following their 18-4 penalty count against them after their 32-19 (four tries to one) hammering of the Waratahs in Sydney last Saturday, has taken steps to reduce these abnormal penalty counts against them.

“We are definitely not happy with our discipline,” Bulls loose forward Wikus van Heerden told this website.

“We will always have things to work on in our game and that is what Heyneke [Meyer, the coach] has imprinted on us. If we say we are happy with what we produced in the last few weeks, we will have the same results [high penalty counts].

“Week after week we work on all the aspects of our game and for sure this week we have given attention to our discipline.

“It certainly counts against you if you have this tag as one of the teams with the most penalties. This is something we’ve given a lot of attention to,” Van Heerden added.

The Bulls will hope to return to their Week One standards – when they conceded just eight penalties against the Sharks.

Apart from the penalty issue, the Bulls’ victories in the last two weeks – which put their campaign firmly back on track – highlighted the South African teams’ newfound confidence in their ability to collect valuable points on the road.

Not only have the Bulls won back to back matches in Australia, their first two matches on a five-match trip, but the Lions also left Australia with a 100 percent record and the Stormers have won one from three in Australasia.

That is five wins from eight matches for SA teams abroad – a 63 percent return, well above the 19 percent (38 wins from 200 matches) in Australasia in the first 11 years of the competition.

Van Heerden said the South African teams, as the statistics show having been notoriously poor travellers in the past, have come to realise that they can win abroad.

Added to that is the improved planning by coaching staff and team management, which have levelled the playing field somewhat for South African teams – which always spend at least two weeks longer in Australasia than what New Zealand and Australian teams spend in South Africa.

“The fact is that the last few years the players have learned more and more about becoming better travellers,” Van Heerden said.

“We are all learning every year. As you tour you see what things work and what you must change and could have done better. The coaches are applying this better, they see what conditions is required to get the best from their players … what surroundings and conditions are required so players don’t long home.

“What makes tours tough is when you long home and that is where coaches and management have done very well. Now the players are beginning to thrive.

“The other big thing is that SA teams have realised they can win abroad,.

“It has always been a case of ‘if we can only do well’ and try not to get a big score against you. But the last few years the South African teams – and here one of the leading lights have been the Sharks – have seen that abroad there are points available.

“The other [South African] teams are now following suit. It is certainly a self confidence game and

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