PRETORIA – It might still be premature to count the Blue Bulls out of the race for Currie Cup playoff race, but they themselves will be the first to admit that the road ahead is almost mission impossible.
In fact, the Bulls still stand a chance of making the semi-finals mathematically and the team are only a bonus point win away from fourth spot on the log.
Their dilemma, however, is that they will face teams that are ahead of them and have beaten them thoroughly during the first half of the competition.
The fact of the matter is that John Mitchell’s men face a gruelling run-in against WP at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday, a resurgent Free State Cheetahs side in Bloemfontein and a tricky home game against the Pumas.
What makes the Bulls ascension to the playoffs seem like an insurmountable feat is their heavy 45-34 defeat at the hands of WP at Newlands, which was followed by a heartbreaking last-gasp 41-40 loss to the Cheetahs at Loftus, before the wheels came completely off against the Pumas in Nelspruit.
All three sides are in a fight of their own to stay in semi-final contention.
The ability to come back psychologically from those losses seems a leap too far for Mitchell’s young side, and they are still yet to develop the mental strength to come-from-behind to win as they struggle with the wit and endurance of staying in the fight alongside their peers.
There is no doubt that the men in blue have made great strides since Mitchell took over the reins, but as much as the improvement has been encouraging and heartening to some of the players and fans, the truth of the matter is that progress is viewed in tandem with winning.
Mitchell now has no choice but to throw in his best-performing players, and dip into that knowledgeable and experienced box of tricks that comes with his many travels to see if he can make the impossible possible.
And even though in the infancy of their evolution under Mitchell, the stark reality is that it will take nothing short of a modern-day rugby miracle for the Bulls to make the semi-finals, let alone be contenders to win a title they last held aloft eight years ago.