PRETORIA – It will take nothing short of a miracle for the Bulls to make the Super Rugby play-offs.
The nightmare of another season of sitting and watching the play-offs from the sidelines had a semblance of reality when they sunk to their second successive defeat in just as many weeks in a 38-28 loss to a 14 man Brumbies side at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
It was a defeat that the Bulls weren’t expecting but one they will know was of their own making and their dire situation of having all but kissed the play-offs hopes goodbye.
With the Bulls firmly rooted at the bottom of the South African conference on 24 points, with three matches remaining and a slew of injuries that have been compounded by the latest casualties to loose forwards Marco van Staden and Roelof Smit, Bulls coach John Mitchell has accepted responsibility for the team’s woes in recent weeks.
Even though Mitchell had been optimistic before the encounter against the Brumbies, he watched helplessly as his side capitulated to a fired up Australian team that seemed to grow in confidence after losing hooker Folau Faingaa on the hour mark and also having been inspired by the disruption they had caused within the Bulls ranks in unsettling their pack.
Mitchell says such defeats are part of the growing pains of a side still getting to grips with his methods and it doesn’t help that they have already lost key players to injury along the way.
“Whenever there is a poor performance the first person to look at is myself. I take responsibility and look to see where we failed the group in preparation.
“Without making excuses we are becoming thin upfront. We do have a lot of players developing in Super Rugby and we didn’t get what we thought we should have got out of finishing the game.
“Unfortunately that is part of the evolution we are going to have to go through, there is no magic solution to this.
“We’ve lost Marco to a lengthy injury, I think, and Roelof as well. The numbers are climbing in terms of injuries to the forwards,” said Mitchell.
While the June international break will offer the Bulls some reprieve from injuries and time to mend their walking wounded, Mitchell has now resigned himself to the fact that he will have to utilize inexperienced youngsters in the loose forwards and frontrow when the season resumes later next month.
“We’ve made progress but have shown some developmental issues and concerns. There is also positional concerns looking at the stock of talent but I will wait until the end of the competition to look at where I think we need to continue to grow those stocks.
“We are very light in the loosies and in the frontrow and we are at a point where we are bringing in development players that aren’t ready for Super Rugby at the moment.”
And with that and three tough clashes against the Sunwolves away, the Jaguares at Loftus and the Lions at Ellis Park, the Bulls are now facing an improbable road if not mission impossible to the play-offs.
“Certainly going to make it a lot more difficult, would have been nice to have got it and keep on winning."
“We just have to now restock, refuel and focus on each game at a time."
“That’s the way it is,” Mitchell added.