Pretoria - It is rather hard to believe that a month ago there were doubts over the Bulls ability to make the play-offs this year. Questions were also being whispered whether Bulls coach Frans Ludeke was still relevant at the franchise.
That though came with the frustration and disappointment of their string of poor results on their overseas tour.
Fast forward to a month after that last-gasp 23-20 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra which condemned the Bulls to their third consecutive loss. Now Ludeke sits rather comfortably with his team at the top of the South African conference after three wins in a row.
There are no complaints from the fans nor any talk that the end is nigh for Ludeke and some of his players. Instead, all the negativity has been replaced by a belief that the Bulls are close to hitting their straps and are gaining enough momentum to ensure that they remain relevant come the play-offs.
While Ludeke would not commit his team to being serious title contenders, he did admit though that their win against the Waratahs on Saturday did a world of good for the team’s confidence as they prepare to welcome the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld this weekend.
The Hurricanes buckled under the sheer strength of the Stormers pack last Friday. And with the Bulls being the masters of forward-dominated play, there will be a quiet confidence in the Bulls camp this week that they are primed for their fourth consecutive victory which will further cement their place in the top three teams in the combined log.
“It’s our third win in a row and I must say that it builds momentum and confidence for the team going forward,” said Ludeke.
While it would be easy for the Bulls to suddenly get carried away as conference leaders and with a favourable fixture list - they play four of their remaining seven games at home - Bulls captain Pierre Spies feels that beyond the result his team also need to continue improving.
“The guys are motivated and want to do well for this team which is great and encouraging for us as a group. We are obviously happy with the result because that is what we are chasing every week and to improve every week as a group,” Spies said.
And the Bulls can certainly improve, especially with the return from injury of a handful of players that is sure to raise the performances of players as the battle for positions in the team intensifies.
The Bulls took the day off on Monday to recover from the bumps and bruises inflicted on them by the Waratahs. There was also good news in that Deon Stegmann, Frik Kirsten, Grant Hattingh and Morne Mellett will all be available for selection with Jurgen Visser set to undergo a late fitness test on Wednesday.
Visser was a late withdrawal from the Bulls team to play against the Waratahs opening up the opportunity for Ulrich Beyers to make his Super Rugby debut at fullback and Visser’s return to fitness from a dead leg will certainly strengthen the Bulls.
Prop Marcel van der Merwe is also training with the squad after recovering from a knee operation.
Paul Willemse (knee, 12 weeks), Cornell Hess (knee, 6 months), Zane Kirchner (finger, 2 weeks), Frans Venter (groin, 6 weeks) and Callie Visagie (ankle, 1 week) are still out of action.