PRETORIA - The culling at Loftus Versfeld is far from over but for now John Mitchell will focus his attention on the team and their bid for Currie Cup glory.
The Bulls’ domestic campaign has gone pear-shaped after they suffered their third consecutive loss in going down to the Free State Cheetahs last weekend.
And as much as Mitchell has identified much of the team’s problems having come from coaching and administration, it is likely that the former All Blacks boss will implement changes on the field in order to arrest the team’s losing run.
Mitchell will be in charge of his first game on Friday evening in Nelspruit when the Bulls play against the Pumas and as much as they have been hit by a string of injuries, Mitchell remains confident that they can close off the first round of the competition with a win and mount a serious challenge for the title.
“Well, the Currie Cup is very much about developing new systems but it is also important to give ourselves the best shot of winning it. We still have a chance at that reality but we’ll obviously have to do it the hard way. The important thing to understand is that we are a club that is developing new systems,” Mitchell said.
In trying to implement a new system at Loftus, Mitchell will have to also contend with making a few changes to the team that played against the Cheetahs after flank Shaun Adendorff, lock Irne Herst, centre Burger Odendaal and fullback Warrick Gelant all suffered knee injuries on Saturday and will not be available this week.
While captain Boom Prinsloo has returned to full fitness after missing out last week because of a bout of flu, it looks like Mitchell could make wholesale changes with prop Lizo Gqoboka, lock Ashton Fortuin, flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff and utility back Joshua Stander all set to get a run this weekend.
The Bulls have struggled with their defence all season long, conceding one less try than they have scored (26 tries) but Mitchell is confident that as soon as the team grasps the new system, they will be a real threat.
“We’ve changed the system and we are in an old way but we actually defended well on Saturday. It is probably the best overall defence improvement we’ve had. We had an old way and the old way certainly isn’t going to bring us dizzy heights again. The new way is creating greater demands on the energy system but once it arrives and everyone is on the same page, I would say ‘look out’.”
Already impressed with the manner in which his team utilises ball in hand, Mitchell is demanding more from his players and believes they could be title contenders if they can get their defence to work as well as their attack.
“We are very capable on attack but we are nowhere near where we need to be. Just imagine when we start defending and start extracting more turnover ball and converting that. It is exciting to be in transition. I can feel it and I can see it but we still have a long way to go. It is important we stay on it.”