It used to be known as simply the Eastern Sports Ground, but the name Loftus Versfeld is famous as one of the most intimidating venues in world rugby and European powerhouses the Exeter Chiefs became another big team to submit to defeat there at the weekend as the Bulls beat them 39-28 in their Champions Cup clash.
But the win was arguably more important for the reputation of the Bulls than it would have been for Exeter. That’s because the Bulls had been thumped 44-14 by the Chiefs last month and they have also been outmuscled by the Sharks and Stormers in recent weeks.
Assistant coach Chris Rossouw, standing in for recuperating director of rugby Jake White, praised the Bulls for rising to the occasion back on home turf.
“It was an unbelievable performance even though there are still areas to improve on,” Rossouw said after the bonus point win that keeps the Bulls’ hopes of a playoff place alive.
“Being back at Loftus obviously makes a difference, we haven’t been here for five weeks. The forwards set the foundation and the maul was unbelievable. We got dominance in the scrums and our solid defence allowed us to attack the breakdowns.
“There was a different energy for this game, it was power-versus-power and it felt like a Test week. All the guys lifted their focus a few levels up, this sort of game brings out the best in the team.
“There’s no team that doesn’t respect our pack and they made it easy for the likes of Kurt-Lee Arendse and Wandile Simelane to be dangerous. The guys made it personal, they wanted to prove a point today,” Rossouw said.
Read more: Bulls have to ‘step it up’, says coach, ahead of Exeter clash
Exeter were pleased that they managed to net a crucial bonus point that keeps them a point ahead of the Bulls and just four behind leaders Leinster.
“We’re not delighted with the result, but any bonus point in this competition is huge,” head coach Ali Hepher said. “We showed good spirit and energy to come back.
“The red card to Henry Slade was a little bit tough and I’m not sure of the processes, but it looked like Henry’s tackle hit the arm first and then the head. But that probably galvanised us a bit.
“We showed good fight and we’re pleased with the guys who came off the bench. We always felt in the game and you want to take whatever you can out of the game.
“There are lots of positives and the bonus point is obviously pleasing. We can go toe-to-toe with all teams,” Hepher said.