Cape Town – Blue Bulls Rugby Union president Willem Strauss said the franchise “now need to get behind our team and coaches” following a 10-match losing streak across all competitions.
The latest defeat came on Sunday, when the Pretoria side went down 33-9 to French giants Toulouse in a Champions Cup last-16 encounter.
That now makes it four losses each in the United Rugby Championship and Currie Cup, and two in the Champions Cup on the trot.
The current winless run started on January 20 with a 31-7 away loss to Lyon, followed by a 37-28 defeat to the Scarlets. Then it was 23-19 to the Stormers, 29-25 to the Lions, 63-15 to the Pumas, 41-33 to Western Province, 32-7 to the Cheetahs, 32-23 to Ulster, 32-28 to the Griffons and 33-9 to Toulouse.
The Bulls are next in action on Friday against Griquas at Loftus Versfeld (5pm kickoff), and may involve some of the top players from the Toulouse game to help secure a much-needed victory.
Strauss said in a WhatsApp broadcast message on Tuesday that the Bulls were able to turn things around a few years ago after being “in complete disarray” – which saw them win the Super Rugby Unlocked title and two Currie Cups in a row, as well as all the junior provincial titles – and that they can do it again under director of rugby Jake White and his coaching team.
“When we started this journey five years ago, the Bulls were in complete disarray at every single level (finances as well), and in 10 years before, only managed to win four (junior, no senior) titles,” Strauss wrote.
“We started from a LOW basis, turned it around and our junior, club, women, development, etc, programmes became the best in SA – some of them amongst the best in the world.
“Finances were sorted out.
“In came Jake and immediate success followed, with nine titles (six junior, three senior) in just three years. Now we need to turn things around (only at senior pro level), but this time, we start from a HIGH basis.
“Mistakes were made, identified and will be corrected. There were also a number of unfortunate happenings, like Jake becoming ill, losing Marcell (Coetzee), losing six matches with a single score, etc.
“The CC losses against the Pumas and Griffons however were horrible and inexcusable.
“But we now need to get behind our team and coaches. We might just cause a few surprises yet.
“Being critical is justified, but not when it’s personal and vindictive. I’m sure all of us have experienced setbacks in life… it’s how you bounce back that’s important.
“Being challenged in life is inevitable; being defeated is optional.”
IOL Sport also understands that one of the major Bulls shareholders, Johann Rupert, has given White his full backing to turn things around, with the first goal being qualification for the URC playoffs.
The Bulls will face Zebre on April 15 at Ellis Park – with the Lions hosting a double-header as they take on Leinster on the same day – and then the following Saturday, April 22, the Pretoria side will face the Irish giants at Loftus Versfeld, with the Lions taking on Zebre at the same venue.
White’s team will probably have to win both games to secure a quarter-final spot, as they are currently in seventh position on the log with 43 points, one fewer than sixth-placed Connacht and two more than the eighth-placed Sharks.
What could also help the Bulls is the fact that Leinster have already secured the No 1 place on the URC log with 15 wins and a draw, so they might send a much weaker team to South Africa if they are victorious in Friday’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Leicester in Dublin.