PRETORIA – The Bulls will go into their game against the Sunwolves in Singapore tomorrow and the last two matches against the Jaguares and Lions in the knowledge that their fate of making the play-offs is still (partly) in their hands.
The Bulls really need to make sure that they win their matches and do so with those coveted bonus points and their place in the play-offs will be guaranteed.
But they will also require some help along the way and surprisingly from their most bitter rivals in the Stormers who have missed out on the play-offs but will have a massive say in who eventually goes through from the South African conference.
The Stormers play against the second placed Jaguares (34 points) tomorrow in Buenos Aires and a week later they will face the third placed Sharks (28 points) at Newlands.
John Mitchell’s team will be hoping that the Stormers can pull off two unlikely wins but the Bulls will also have to play their part when they host the Jaguares at Loftus Versfeld next weekend and when they travel across the Jukskei River to face the Lions at Ellis Park.
Mitchell has promised that his team will fight until the end and that they won’t easily give up on the opportunity of making the play-offs.
“At the end of the day we will fight right till the end. We’ve come a long way in the re-establishment of trying to win the hearts and minds of our people and the way that we play. Let’s just hope that the guys continue with that intent and not focus on the outcome but finish with that intent.
I’m sure whatever happens they will still win the hearts and minds of our people and create enough promise and hope to realise that if we can strengthen our squad going forward then ultimately everyone will benefit as a result of the experience of this year,” Mitchell said.
But the Bulls immediate challenge will be at the Singapore National Stadium against a stubborn and ambitious Sunwolves side who continue to punch way above their weight.
Besides the fight that is in the Sunwolves side, the Bulls will also have to contend with the harsh conditions, including the energy-sapping humidity that has often been the undoing of many visiting teams.
Mitchell is fully aware of what awaits his side but also demands a better defensive effort from his charges who were found wanting in their past two matches against the Jaguares and Brumbies.
“They play from pretty deep. Once they are 30 metres out they are blunt and look to hold onto the ball. In the humidity of Singapore where we could go to 20 minute water breaks that will be challenging, not only for us but also for them.
I’m sure there will be some ball that goes to the air around the middle of the field and who wins those crumbs will determine who can dictate possession and get into their game. It is obvious to see in our last two performances our standards have dropped defensively which is something I haven’t enjoyed.”
“If we get those disciplines right that will bring back the enthusiasm that was demonstrated in our defence in the earlier part of the competition,” Mitchell said.
The Bulls team is:
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;
Replacements: Edgar Marutlulle, Simphiwe Matanzima, Morné Smith, Thembelani Bholi, Nic de Jager, André Warner, Manie Libbok, Dries Swanepoel.