Bulls scrumhalf Rudy Paige breaks the line against the Chiefs in Hamilton. Photo: Bruce Lim, www.photosport.nz

PRETORIA – It will be another long week for the Bulls as they prepare for their final match against the Sunwolves in Tokyo in what can be described as a disastrous tour so far.

The Bulls would have arrived in Tokyo knowing very well that their season hangs on by a fine thread, and another loss could plunge them into a crisis which could lead to heads rolling at Loftus Versfeld.

No South African team have yet lost to the Sunwolves, and as much as the Stormers came close to being that side last year in Singapore with their draw, the Bulls’ string of losses – including Saturday’s 28-12 defeat to the Chiefs – makes them ripe for the picking.

What may have looked impossible at the beginning of the season, that such a talented Bulls outfit could be spoken of as probable losers against the Sunwolves, is a sad indictment on the team itself, and the management who are meant to guide them into fulfilling the potential that lies within.

Not much of that potential has been evident this season, and while they were commended for showing glimpses of how good they can be in their defeats against the Stormers, Cheetahs and Blues, it would have been disheartening for many of the Bulls faithful to watch their team again capitulate in the final quarter against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.

For the better part of the match there had been hope that the Bulls would turn the corner and finally emancipate themselves from the shackles of their old ways, and the reluctance to throw caution to the wind.

But they faded again and were left to ponder on the many missed opportunities they left on the field, especially in the first half.

Yes, there had been opportunities to register more points in that first half when the Bulls were dominating possession and territory, but their inability to land the fatal blow in the red zone meant that they were not deserving of the points in the first place.

The Bulls were cheaply turned over, especially deep in Chiefs territory and with the tryline at their mercy, meaning that all their hard graft came to naught.

They were often made to start all over again by a side that made the best of their opportunities in the second half.

Bulls coach Nollis Marais left New Zealand for Japan an optimistic man that his team showed an appetite to play attacking rugby, but was left counting the costs of yet another half-hearted effort from his side.

“I think we were excellent on attack in the first half, and had we converted those opportunities, then the score might have been different. I think there were opportunities in the second half, but overall a much more improved attacking performance,” said Marais.

But the truth of the matter is that regardless of how well the Bulls may have played in Hamilton for three-quarters of the game, their season so far paints a grim picture, with one win out of five outings.

At least the Bulls have one more match to play before returning home to play a deluge of matches at Loftus, but will that be too little too late for the three-time Super Rugby champions?

“Obviously it is difficult, winning one out of five. It was 7-7 last weekend and 9-3 ahead this week, and then second half, we just gave away some points,” Marais said.

“The Crusaders lost something like five games in a row and still won the championship, so I still believe.

“We have one more away game and then we play a lot of games at home, and the guys are looking forward to that.

“It is always a difficult start, with one of those six games at home. So, we must get back and make sure we win our home games.”


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