Bulls head coach Nollis Marais believes his youngsters will improve following their 33-9 defeat to the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.
After a first half that failed to impress, the Stormers came out firing in the second 40, with fly-half Robert du Preez making his debut a memorable one by putting 23 points on the board for the Cape to sink their try-less Pretoria foes.
The Stormers put the three-time champions under pressure up front, and Marais pointed out the areas of concern that were exposed by their counterparts, especially at the set-pieces.
"(Eben) Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph (Du Toit) showed their class and their replacements they brought on were very good and they showed us how young and inexperienced we are in certain positions again," Marais told Supersport.
"We didn’t keep to our plan, and its easy to figure out – we didn’t win our set-pieces and if you don’t do that, then you can have thousands of plans but if you don’t get a scrum or line-out ball then you can’t attack effectively, then the momentum goes to the other team.
"If you look at the Stormers in the second half, all their momentum came from that – and their backline came more and more into the game, and that is why we struggled in the second half like that."
The Bulls will host the Rebels at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, March 5, and Marais believes his inexperienced side will improve as the competition progresses.
"We have to start again to prepare for the Rebels," he added.
"We need to play these youngsters and make sure they are ready down the line.
"It is a long competition and they will get better each week.
"It is unfortunate they are 20-year olds – both our young locks – it was a shame RG got injured in the first 20 minutes as I wanted to see how he would play for 60 minutes."
"We knew we lost a lot of players last year, we knew we were playing the youngsters otherwise in two years time we will have the same problem.
"It’s not nice, but we have to stick to our guns and we know it is the right way forward, we need to continue with it.
"The guys must learn, it isn’t nice and there isn’t any happiness in seeing it.
"We knew it would be difficult to come play here, but it is a good way of learning.
"They will continue to grow and learn, they need those games to learn and unfortunately it is what they need to go through to learn from it."