PRETORIA - It is not that winning the Currie Cup is not important or would not be a barometer for how far the Blue Bulls have come but they have their sights set on higher honours, according to executive for rugby and head coach John Mitchell.
The Bulls are the unlikely semi-finalist in this year’s Currie Cup competition and even though it has taken them a bit of luck, much of their presence amongst the last four teams has come down to the hard work Mitchell and his players have put in particularly in the last bit of the round robin stages.
However, Mitchell harbours lofty ambitions for his team beyond just beating the Sharks in Saturday’s semi-final in Durban and going on to chance their luck at winning a trophy that has eluded them for eight years.
“The Currie Cup is not our destination, we are building towards the future and we’ll continue to build towards the future,” said the New Zealander.
“If we choose to go further as a result of good performance then that is great. But ultimately it is not our destination and clearly we are improving by focusing on that development.”
At the same time it is no secret that Mitchell would love to get his hands on the oldest domestic trophy in world rugby after doing so with the Lions in 2011. But he is not obsessing over it and just wants his team to continue to show the growth and improvement that will ultimately yield trophies, and bigger trophies than the Currie Cup.
“That (Currie Cup trophy) is the by-product of getting it right. That is what finals come down to, is about getting it right,” Mitchell said.
“I won’t be drawn into outcomes, as much as it is enjoyable, it can be the other way as well. It is important that we continue to keep getting better, keep understanding why we are getting better and what can make us better as well.
“Every weekend we keep asking the athletes to bring their best self and it comes to personal ownership and self-awareness. As long as we keep learning we give ourselves the opportunity of becoming a good team. At the end of the day the competition will go to the most extraordinary team out of the four."
The reality, though, is that the Bulls will face a Sharks team that have been extraordinary for most of the season - minus the defeats to the Free State Cheetahs at the beginning of the season and last weekend’s surprise defeat against Western Province in Durban.
Mitchell believes that Robert du Preez’s men have been playing finals rugby for most of the competition and coupled with the experience within their team, the Sharks will have to deal with the pressure that comes with being favourites and some people’s obvious choice of making it to the final and winning the competition.
“The Sharks have probably been in finals mode for the last couple of weeks as a result of knowing where they stand," he added
“They’ve got experience and the Currie Cup is probably very important to them and they have been focusing on that now for a couple of weeks. So, that comes with its own pressures but for us we’ve had to earn it the hard way and fight every week to present ourselves this opportunity. So nothing will be different.”
The Bulls have only one injury concern with young lock Aston Fortuin having suffered an ankle injury in Friday’s 52-32 win over the Pumas and is a doubtful starter for Saturday’s semi-final.