The Bulls react after their 21-20 defeat to the Sunwolves in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: EPA/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

PRETORIA - It was in the same fixture last year in Tokyo that the Bulls campaign hit a fatal speed bump as they sunk to a shock defeat to the Sunwolves. 

This year with a different and optimistic mindset, the men in blue will be hoping that their game against the Sunwolves in Singapore will be the catalyst to keeping their playoff ambitions alive with less than a handful of games remaining in the competition.

And that is all coach John Mitchell will want from his men: for them to put up a masterful performance like they have done in patches this campaign and at the same time give themselves a glimmer of hope in making it all the way to the playoffs. 

The reality of it though is that nothing will be handed on a platter to the Bulls by the Japanese outfit who have shown an appetite to not only compete, but dare to chance their hand - particularly against South African teams.

In their last encounter against the Stormers, the Sunwolves showed scant respect for the star-laden team from Cape Town and pushed them until the end and in the process earned a well-deserved victory. 

While the Bulls may not be the Stormers, they have also shown moments of weakness at crucial times this season and even though they understand their capabilities as a collective, it is their mental strength that will come under the microscope.

The Bulls mental fortitude will certainly be put to the test as they are a far superior side to their adversaries, looking at them pound for pound in their playing personnel. 

Armed with a healthy sprinkling of Springboks and a game plan that has proven to yield results if applied effectively, the Bulls will have to overcome the seed of doubt that was planted in their two consecutive defeats against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires and the Brumbies at home.

It was in those defeats that the Bulls showed an uncanny weakness in their defensive system which requires more heart and attitude from the players than being technically aware. 

And it will be that wearing of their hearts on their sleeves that will not only fix the Bulls defence, but will help them douse the fire in the belly that the Sunwolves will bring into this encounter.

If the men in blue are able to channel their emotions and need for retribution for their losses against the Jaguares and Brumbies and turn their desperation for the playoffs into a catalyst to performing at their best then the Sunwolves should not be a hindrance, but rather a stepping stone.

Teams For Singapore

Sunwolves: Gerhard van den Heever, Semisi Masirewa, Jason Emery, Michael Little, Akihito Yamada, Hayden Parker, Keisuke Uchida, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Shunsuke Nunomaki, Willie Britz, Uwe Helu, James Moore, Takuma Asahara, Jaba Bregvadze, Craig Milla. 

Bench: Yusuke Niwai, Shintaro Ishihara, Hencus van Wyk, Grant Hattingh, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda, Ryoto Nakamura.

Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Jamba Ulengo, Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze, Divan Rossouw, Handré Pollard (captain), Embrose Papier, Hanro Liebenberg, Jannes Kirsten, Marco van Staden, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Conraad van Vuuren, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman.

Bench: Edgar Marutlulle, Simphiwe Matanzima, Morné Smith, Thembelani Bholi, Nic de Jager, André Warner, Manie Libbok, Dries Swanepoel.

Kickoff: 1.55pm (SA time)


IOL Sport

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