JOHANNESBURG - After being at pains to extract any positives from his side’s 54-24 rugby hiding at the hands of the Jaguares over the weekend, Bulls boss John Mitchell believes his side still hold their Super Rugby play-off destiny in their own hands.
The defeat in Buenos Aires was a double blow for the Bulls as they lost valuable real estate in their conference, and their confidence also took a knock ahead of their game against the Brumbies before the June international break.
And while Mitchell saw no positives in the manner in which his team played and the lack of fight, the former All Blacks coach remains optimistic that they can close down the five point gap between themselves and the second placed Jaguares in the South African conference and still qualify for the play-offs with only four matches remaining in the round-robin stage.
After playing the Brumbies, the Bulls will have an opportunity on making up on lost ground in their game against the Sunwolves in Singapore before chancing their hand at stealing crucial points from the Jaguares at Loftus Versfeld and the Lions at Ellis Park.
At the same time, Mitchell has resigned himself to the fact that the log leading Lions have all but wrapped up the conference and that his team are now fighting for second place, which will guarantee them a spot in the knockout stage.
“We are still within the fight, we are obviously going to have to fight for two now. At the end of the day we’ve got to control our own destiny,” Mitchell said.
The first step on the road to redemption will obviously be their encounter against a Brumbies side that lost to the Lions but showed a lot of fight and the ability to be a real threat on attack - which will test what was a porous Bulls defence against the Jaguares.
Even though disappointed in what unravelled in Buenos Aires a couple of days ago, Mitchell says his team have a chance to redeem themselves at home and get their campaign back on track.
“Not at all, it is up to us to get it right next weekend," he said. “One thing about a loss is that you got to learn to get over it quickly. But no this conference is not over yet,”
The Bulls are likely to have to dig deep into their loose forward resources this week after Hendre Stassen suffered an ankle injury that could keep him out of action for the game against the Brumbies.
But there were good news with captain Burger Odendaal being given the green light to play after missing out on last weekend’s trip to South America because of a rib injury.
Meanwhile Springbok lock Lood de Jager successfully underwent an operation for his torn pectoral muscle on Monday, though he will be out of action for the remainder of the year, while prop Lizo Gqoboka is set to go under the surgeon’s scalpel on Tuesday for an operation on a ruptured tendon on the big toe of his left foot.