PRETORIA – One misstep could relegate the Bulls’ campaign to the gutter as they look to finish their Australasian tour on a high with victory over the Highlanders this Friday.
The Bulls received a shot in the arm with their 22-all draw with the Blues in Auckland last Friday, but their playoff hopes are still dangling by a thread.
They will not only have to beat the Highlanders in New Zealand, but will return to South Africa where a resurgent Lions team will be lying in wait at Loftus next week.
Bulls coach Pote Human said although they were happy about getting two points out of the tussle with the Blues, it would mean nothing if they did not reach the playoffs.
“We just want to make the playoffs where anything can happen, the two games are crucial as it will make or break our season,” Human said. “There is no sense in looking backwards, we want to do well this season, and the remaining two games will determine whether we had a good or bad year.”
The South African conference has developed into a game of leapfrog as the teams swap places on the log.
The in-form Jaguares consolidated their lead at the top of the standings and look set to earn a home quarter-final following their 34-23 win over the Reds at Lang Park on Saturday.
But lower down, the SA franchises have continued to change positions every week with the Lions now occupying second place on 35 points with the Bulls in third spot just one point adrift.
The Bulls could easily have earned four points in the clash against the Blues, but failed to capitalise on scoring opportunities in a cold and wet Auckland.
Human rued the missed chances, but believed they would have gained some valuable lessons in the final stretch of the competition.
“We had our opportunities to win the match but we fought back well after trailing 22-15 to finish with a draw,” Human said. “I’m delighted with the courage and determination the players showed, the team spirit is great at the moment.
“It is always difficult to win here, but we can count ourselves unlucky, we put them under immense pressure and put them off their game.”
The Bulls suffered another blow with loose forward Paul Schoeman returning to SA due to a knee injury.
The Bulls have sent an SOS to Bulls captain Handre Pollard, who will join the team for the clash against the Highlanders.
Pollard will be flying to Dunedin to replace Schoeman for Friday’s all-important clash@ockertde