PRETORIA – It was not that long ago that the Brumbies came to Loftus Versfeld and spoilt what was meant to be the biggest rugby “kuier“ since the Bulls last won Super Rugby in 2010.
It was five years ago to be exact and the Brumbies did the unthinkable by becoming the first side to beat the Bulls in a Super Rugby play-off match at home. Had the Bulls won on that day, they would have proceeded to their fourth Super Rugby final.
But it was not to be largely because of the defiant nature the Brumbies came with and also partly because of the Bulls' own blind belief in their abilities.
Today’s encounter might not carry the same gravity and status as was the case five years ago, but there is a lot the Bulls can learn from the fatal mistakes their predecessors committed in that game.
There will be no running away from the cold, hard facts that the men in blue have to win all of their remaining four matches in the round robin stage of the competition to progress through to the play-offs and that journey will start this afternoon.
A lesson the Bulls will need to heed from previous encounters against the Brumbies is that they are a team that thrive on being the underdog and often reserve their best for when the odds are heavily stacked up against them.
The Australians showed this in their defeat last weekend against the Lions when they stayed in the fight until the hour mark when they were reduced to 14 men with the red card to Rory Arnold.
Even then, the Brumbies didn’t stop attacking and they were able to make good use of their scraps of possession, especially out wide through the defence-splitting runs of centre Tevita Kurindrani.
At least the Bulls know what is coming their way and with right preparation there is no reason why they can’t nullify the Brumbies' strengths and capitalise on their weaknesses especially at home where they have been ruthless against opportunistic travelling teams.
“They’ve been unlucky in the past so they are going to come out hungry against us," said Bulls captain Burger Odendaal.
“We have done our homework but it is still going to be a fight until the end. We are going to have to give it our all for 80 minutes otherwise we will get a bloody nose."
And the Bulls will know all about being on the receiving end of a bloody nose after their 54-24 hiding at the hands of the Jaguares last weekend in Buenos Aires.
That was somewhat self-inflicted though as the Bulls had nobody to blame besides themselves for not adapting to the fast pace of the game, the Jaguares aggression at the rucks and the total breakdown of their defence as well.
The irony is that the Bulls at their best when they play the game at a high tempo. “So win, lose or draw we won’t change anything, and let's see what happens," Odendaal said.