PRETORIA - Last year was undoubtedly one of the darkest seasons in Bulls Super Rugby history yet.
They suffered their heaviest defeat at their fortress Loftus Versfeld against the Crusaders, they were convincingly beaten by the Southern Kings also at Loftus for the Eastern Cape franchise's maiden win over the three time champions.
And then there was that ugly and soulless defeat against the Sunwolves in Tokyo in a season that saw the Bulls slump to seventh out of eight teams in the South African group while finishing in 15th place on the overall log, just three places above basement dwellers the Melbourne Rebels.
However, Bulls lock RG Snyman believes that the nightmare that is 2017 is dead and buried and that the team will be looking at setting the record straight under the mentorship of John Mitchell.
“I think so. There’s only a positive vibe amongst the players and everyone is looking forward to the season ahead and to rectify last season,” Snyman said.
It is Mitchell that Snyman and the rest of the Bulls team will look to for guidance as they negotiate the competitive and often demanding Super Rugby competition.
Mitchell took over the reins of the team from Nollis Marais who had introduced the talented Snyman to the senior ranks and Super Rugby two years ago.
Snyman, though, is not taking the harsh lessons learnt in the competition in the Bulls colours for granted and knows that his teammates will have to do their talking on the field once the competition commences against the Hurricanes at the end of the month.
“I think so (the competition will be more familiar) doing it after a second season. You may think you know what to expect but not entirely. This year we will have a better idea of what is coming and what happens. We are positive and looking forward to it,” added Snyman.
As much as Snyman finds himself in the pound seat in the Bulls second row alongside Springbok lock Lood de Jager as the favourites to start, Snyman is also mindful of the difficulty it will be to hold down a starting berth with competition from the likes of Jason Jenkins and the younger and less experienced Ruben van Heerden and Aston Fortuin.
“So what I would do is start with me and rotate the other guys,” joked Snyman. “I don’t know, I think he will have his hands full with that decision but in the end having three good players and making a decision around that is actually a fortunate position that he is in.“
While Mitchell will be the man tasked with the hard decision of selecting the chosen men to restore dignity and pride to the Bulls, Snyman says his stint playing rugby in Japan for the Honda Heat has helped develop him as a player and a person.
“The best thing over there was the people and how they took us in and made us feel welcome. The toughest thing over there was just the food and language especially playing on the field, it was a challenge.”
“I think so (it helped). Just being in a different set up, environment and working under a different coach gives you a lot of experience. Experiencing a different culture and how they do things, it helps your rugby a lot,” said Snyman.
Armed with valuable experience, talent that should see him become a Springbok sooner rather than later, Snyman’s positive outlook on the road that lies ahead for the Bulls is exactly what the three time champions will need to put to bed the past and forge a new and successful path for themselves.