Cape Town – It’s been a dreadful period for the Blue Bulls over the last few months, but they will have two opportunities to get back on track this weekend and will hope that their fortunes change for the better.
Edgar Marutlulle’s Bulls Currie Cup side will lock horns with the Free State Cheetahs on Friday in Bloemfontein (5.05pm kickoff), while Jake White’s United Rugby Championship outfit will set sail for Belfast on Tuesday night to face Ulster on Saturday (9.35pm SA time).
The Pretoria franchise have lost nine out of their last 11 matches across all competitions, including last week’s 41-33 defeat to Western Province and the previous week’s 63-15 annihilation at the hands of the Pumas – both at Loftus Versfeld.
Blue Bulls Rugby Union president Willem Strauss said in a weekend broadcast message on his social media accounts that “haters will hate and obviously enjoy our current misery”, but admitted that things cannot continue as they are.
“Something is definitely missing in our senior team, which is difficult for us as leadership and coaching staff to identify. There are the obvious factors that contribute to the slump in form – Walt (Steenkamp), Arno (Botha) and especially Marcell (Coetzee) leaving have left a huge leadership vacuum,” Strauss wrote.
“A lack of X-factor and pace due to Madosh (Tambwe) leaving and Canan (Moodie) and KL (Kurt-Lee Arendse) having to rest.
“We definitely need specialist defence coach(es) in our system.
“The loss against the Pumas was a disgrace. The games we lost against Scarlets, Stormers, Lions and WP we could have, or rather should have won.
“Maak 3 voëltjies n somer? (Do three swallows make a summer?)
“KL and Canan are available next weekend and Marcell will be back from Japan by the end of April.
“Player X that missed a tackle or player Y that drops a high ball does not define Jake and his coaching staff that have achieved incredible success from the beginning by winning Currie Cups and other competitions, as well as reaching two international finals.
“Even less does it define us as a province who have established the best club, junior rugby and women’s programmes in SA.
“Haters will hate and obviously enjoy our current misery.
“Everyone however knows that the Vodacom Bulls have the leadership, the structures and shareholders to overcome setbacks and continue our quest to become the best rugby club in the world, on and off the field.”
There is no doubt that Arendse and Moodie will add a much-needed cutting edge to the Bulls’ attack against Ulster, but they need to find a way to shore up their defence.
White said after the WP encounter that there will be changes in the coaching ranks as the contracts of Pine Pienaar and Nollis Marais will not be renewed, but that process will only take place at the end of the season.
A solution is needed immediately, as Ulster are in fine form, having won four out of their last five matches, with victories over Sale and the Stormers in Belfast, Sharks in Durban and Cardiff in Wales.