JOHANNESBURG - For the Bulls to enjoy a successful tour Down Under, they will need nothing short of winning at least two of their three tour matches against the Queensland Reds, Chiefs and Crusaders.
The harsh reality of how difficult a tour they can have is the unenviable truth that they have never won a Super Rugby encounter against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
But before embarking on mission impossible to New Zealand’s south island, they will have the opportunity of chancing their hand first at the Reds on Saturday morning in Brisbane before crossing the Tasman Sea to face the Chiefs in Hamilton next weekend.
And it will be with their eye firmly set on unseating the Reds in their own backyard that they will seek to overturn last weekend’s loss at the hands of the Lions at Loftus Versfeld.
Bulls coach John Mitchell has already taken one step towards ensuring his team’s long term success by engineering a win against the 2016 champions the Hurricanes in the capital two weeks ago, and he will again apply the same psychological tactics upon his charges to see them finish with the most points against the Reds.
Such is Mitchell’s belief in his team’s abilities that he has convinced them that they can win anywhere within Super Rugby’s four continents in their bid to be one of the competition’s surprise packages.
That element of surprise may have somewhat been uncovered in their win against the Hurricanes but if they are able overcome the glaring weaknesses in their game from last week, then the Reds will certainly have their hands full at home.
With a potent second row led by capable Springbok lock Lood de Jager and the bruising but energetic youngster in RG Snyman, the Bulls will look to their tight five to land the initial and tallying blow for the rest of the team to land the Reds on the canvass.
Home or away 'irrelevant'
And regardless of whether they find themselves on home or foreign soil, Mitchell would have long drummed it into his team that Super Rugby champions are made by their ability to win against any opposition and on any field.
“At the end of day it is a piece of grass no different to Loftus. We have a responsibility to mentally deal with wherever we go. Whether we are at home or away is irrelevant and it is about sticking to our process and rectifying our inaccuracies,” Mitchell said.
But the Bulls will also not go blindly into Saturday's clash against former All Black lock Brad Thorne’s side and they will be well aware of the threat the Reds will pose with their hard running and gigantic midfield while their enthusiasm to stay in the contest will test the Bulls levels of conditioning.
“In their two fixtures they demonstrated first phase attack in that area (midfield) and we will need to win the gain line and stop them from gaining any sort of momentum.”
“They got through a lot of attack against Brumbies and were unlucky not to finish. They demonstrated good structure and looked busy, they have a simple plan, kick early and are young and enthusiastic. Brad is player I coached at All Blacks and is an infectious person and I’m sure that exudes as a coach as well,” said Mitchell.
Reds team: Aidan Toua, Filipo Daugunu, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Eto Nabuli, Jono Lance, James Tuttle, Caleb Timu, Liam Wright, Adam Korczyk, Kane Douglas, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper (captain). Replacements: Alex Mafi, JP Smith, Sef Fa'agase, Harry Hockings, Angus Scott-Young, Tate McDermott, Hamish Stewart, Duncan Paia'aua
Bulls team: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze, Duncan Matthews, Handre Pollard, Andre Warner, Nic de Jager, Hanro Liebenberg, Roelof Smit, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Frans van Wyk, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka, Trevor Nyakane, Jason Jenkins, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier, Marnitz Boshoff, Divan Rossouw.