PRETORIA – All the Blue Bulls need do on Friday when they host the Pumas at Loftus Versfeld is to ensure they get themselves a bonus-point win, and a place in the semi-finals will be secured.
That playoff spot should be claimed if nothing out of the ordinary happens in the matches between the Golden Lions and Free State Cheetahs, and log leaders the Sharks and Western Province.
While the Bulls’ monumental 64-36 win against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last Friday would have helped a great deal in placing them within striking distance, they will now have to also rely on the luck of others to seal their fate.
The Bulls had moved into fourth place, until the Lions sprung a surprise 29-20 win over Western Province on Sunday, which brought the Johannesburg union back into contention while the Bulls dropped to fifth spot.
For the Bulls to be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, they will need to rely on the winner of the Lions and Cheetahs match not conceding any bonus points to the losers, but the Bulls must beat the Pumas with a bonus point to finish on 32 points overall.
A loss for the Lions without any bonus point would leave them on 30 points, while a loss for the Cheetahs without a bonus point will also leave them out in the cold on 31.
Western Province also find themselves stuck on 32 and if they lose to the Sharks they could easily find themselves in a lottery against the Bulls, Lions or Cheetahs for that final semi-final spot.
Bulls captain Burger Odendaal conceded that the seven losses out of the 11 games played so far this season haven’t aided their cause.
“Yes, it is (nice to still be in contention for the playoffs), but we have made it difficult for ourselves. It now depends on what other teams do, and we don’t want to be in that position. We will have to go out next week and give it our best shot, and leave everything on the field,” said Odendaal.
Bulls boss John Mitchell believes that it won’t be a foregone conclusion that the Sharks will be the last team standing in the competition.
“We certainly back ourselves in attack, we’ve grown there as well. We are nowhere near the finished article, but if we can get into the semis, this tournament is still anyone’s,” Mitchell said.