Johannesburg – After their playoff chances were dealt a death blow last weekend, the Bulls would be excused for a lack of motivation in their final Super Rugby match against the Rebels in Pretoria on Friday.
The result would determine their final resting place on the overall log but would be of little comfort for a campaign of lost chances. It would be the first time in a decade the Pretoria-based side had not featured in the playoffs, however, they could still finish the season with an unbeaten record at Fortress Loftus.
Their last two Super Rugby defeats – against the Lions and the Stormers – were detrimental to their bid to progress past the league stage and, this week, the rhetoric changed from the routine answers of “focusing on the game at hand”, to the looming Currie Cup competition.
“We are definitely not happy with ourselves and we really just need to keep working,” Bulls captain Victor Matfield said.
“Currie Cup is the next focus now. I think we'll have a good team for the Currie Cup.
“Last year we were close (in Super Rugby). We were actually very good finishing second on the log.”
The Bulls would use the Currie Cup as a building block for next year's Super Rugby competition.
Matfield said the franchise would also sacrifice fewer players to the Springboks during the provincial competition.
The Light Blues have already made sweeping changes to the side for Friday's clash against the Rebels with coach Frans Ludeke naming some exciting future talent on the bench.
Although he was disappointed they had not progressed past the league stage, Ludeke was confident they had the talent to reach greater heights in future.
“You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself and that is why we want to close this season off first,” Ludeke said.
“Hopefully we can go into the Currie Cup with a good pre-season and an almost new squad.
“The blend is more there now than in the last two Currie Cups, in terms of playing experience and talented youngsters.”
The Bulls' mentor said his side would not underestimate the Rebels, a team in search of their maiden victory on South African soil.
“If you look at them, they keep the ball in hand and they kick the least of all teams,” Ludeke said.
“They've got an effective pack of forwards with a good lineout and a good scrum. It will be a battle for quality possession.” – Sapa