JOHANNESBURG - What transpired in Buenos Aires in the early hours of Sunday morning was nothing shy of a heartless performance by the Bulls as they sunk to a 54-24 defeat at the hands of the Jaguares.
But a clearly disappointed Bulls coach John Mitchell sent out a timely warning to those who have already written them and their play-off chances off, stating that the race for the knockout stage of the competition is far from over.
“One thing about a loss is that you got to learn to get over it quickly. But no this conference is not over yet,” Mitchell said from Argentina.
And the Bulls will quickly need to put the hapless performance of the past weekend behind them if they are to get their campaign back on track against the Brumbies at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
It was not the dropped points that would have bothered Mitchell - the Bulls are now fourth in the South African conference and five points adrift of second placed Jaguares on 29 points and four from the Sharks - but rather how softly his team wilted in the face of some brute physicality and exceptional handling skills and high speed intensity from the South Americans.
“Disappointed in the performance and fact that it is the first time that we’ve shown softness,” added Mitchell.
That “softness” was evident in the opening exchanges as the Bulls failed to hold onto the ball and like deer fixated on the headlights, they failed to make any meaningful decisions that could swing the game in their favour.
The failings of the normally sound decision making particularly from the senior players was further compounded by the porous manner in which the Bulls defended, with many missed one-on-one tackles that opened up gaping holes which the Jaguares capitalised on.
For Mitchell, it all came down to attitude or rather a lack thereof as what was technically, tactically and physically an authoritative Bulls side in their victory over the Sharks, looked a shadow of that team a week later and against a side that enticed them into playing the kind of rugby the men in blue thrive on.
“No, it was with the attitude,” said Mitchell. “Bad start was not actually so much a setback because we scored quickly after and went to a stage where hadn’t (Thembelani) Bholi knocked on over the line we would have gone ahead.
“Clearly there was decision making that was average in that early period transferring pressure but the guys managed to recover and re-establish their momentum and authority with ball in hand.”
Mitchell also rubbished suggestions that over the controversial appointment of Argentine referee Federico Anselmi to officiate the game saying that it had no effect on the outcome and that his side just could not adapt to the high paced feasting that the Jaguares had dished out.
“It was always going to be difficult with an Argentine ref but you have to get over those kind of things. And as it turned out, it didn’t have any bearing. The side’s ability to adapt was poor.”
The Bulls will be now sweating over the injuries to utility forward Hendre Stassen and prop Frans van Wyk who will be assessed once they are back home today.