PRETORIA - Now that the Blue Bulls have found their hunger for scoring tries, head coach John Mitchell wants them to show the same desire on defence in their last two matches of the round robin stage of the Currie Cup.
In their last three games, the Bulls have crossed the whitewash 13 times as they continue to revel under the new Mitchell dispensation, but their age old problem on defence also continues with a combined 12 tries conceded against the Golden Lions, Sharks and Western Province.
With just two games left in the regular season and the Bulls still hoping to make the play-offs, it will be crucial for them to up the ante on defence if they are to secure bonus-point wins against the Free State Cheetahs and Pumas that could see them through to the semi-finals.
Mitchell is aware his team have struggled on defence throughout the year from their woeful Super Rugby campaign, but the former All Blacks coach believes those frailties stem from players' fear of making mistakes.
Mitchell has vowed to “eliminate” the defensive problems by the end of the season and has demanded a no-fear approach in the tackle for Friday’s match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
“I just want to see a non-fear defensive performance. I just want players to step up defensively and totally be centred collectively in our defence," he said.
"It has been a limitation the whole year and to me there’s a great future in the way that we defend, but at the moment we are still afraid to make errors.
"We have to find a different meaning around attacking defence because at the moment we still look like a side that fears to make a mistake in the tackle, and that is something that I’m wanting to eliminate and I will eliminate as we move forward.
"In the last two performances of the season I want to see an improved collective defence.”
Mitchell has made it a little easier on his team to attain the kind of performance that could see them edge closer to the play-offs by naming an unchanged team to that which lost 45-46 to Western Province on Sunday at Loftus Versfeld.
As painful as the controversial last-gasp defeat to the old foe was, the Bulls will look for atonement against the defending champions, who had also inflicted a defeat after the final hooter on the men in blue seven weeks ago.
With the same men tasked with the same mission as last week, Mitchell hopes his faith in his players will be rewarded by a stellar defensive effort that will be enough to finally see them win after failing to do so in their last three games.
“It is important to create cohesion and continuity in people also helps cohesion," he said. "While there are a number of players coming back from injuries, I think history tells us that we probably have managed the players back into playing rugby as well as we could.
"We obviously have a new methodology and we want players to earn the jersey, but we also want players to return for a length of time. That is also putting faith in the players because some of these younger players in their absence have actually performed well, so it is important to make sure that they are rewarded."
Blue Bulls team (15-1): Warrick Gelant, Duncan Matthews, Burger Odendaal (capt), JT Jackson, Johnny Kotze, Marnitz Boshoff, Ivan van Zyl, Nic de Jager, Tim Agaba, Marco van Staden, Ruben van Heerden, Aston Fortuin, Conraad van Vuuren, Edgar Marutlulle, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Matthys Basson, Jano Venter, Boom Prinsloo, Piet van Zyl, Tony Jantjies, Ulrich Beyers