JOHANNESBURG - Much has been made of the Sharks heroics on their recent tour of New Zealand and how close they came to achieving the double with a monstrous win against the Blues and coming heartbreakingly close to beating the Hurricanes.
But it has done little to shake the Bulls’ confidence ahead of what is anticipated to be an almighty clash on Saturday in Durban.
As much as the Sharks are considered arguably the best South African side on paper, it is their lack of positive results and sub-standard performance prior to their tour that left many wondering on their ability to become a force worth reckoning in the competition.
And while their performances against the Blues and Hurricanes would have gone a long way in allaying their fears of yet another doomed campaign, the Bulls will draw confidence from their last performance, a win against the Stormers, the return of Springbok lock Lood de Jager and his second row side kick RG Snyman and refreshed bodies and minds from their bye last weekend.
While the Bulls still remain in a process of growth and evolution under Mitchell, the men from the capital are making no excuses for their shortcomings in recent weeks and will look to add another feather in their cap by going for broke in their ambition to get their first away win of the season.
“I don’t think it will blow our confidence,” said Mitchell. “We’ve got a lot to learn still and we are still well short of where we can get to, but we are on the way. We would like to extract more out of our attack and also out of our defence.
“We’ve gone away on our bye and identified where we think we can get more growth and keep the guys engaged on where we can get better. What is important with every team is that you have to look after home and you also have to pick up what you can away. At some point we’ve got to balance the sheet in terms of getting something away.
"Whether that is next weekend or in the future, we’ll keep fighting for that. We are clearly on a cycle where we want to get better and we won’t let outcome destroy our motivation in what we do. So, we are looking forward to the contest, it’s going to be a cracking game I think.”
The reality of how good the Sharks have been, however, doesn’t escape Mitchell and his troops and they remain wary of the attacking threat that the Durbanites will pose.
Having come close to winning in New Zealand, especially against the Chiefs in Hamilton and then returning home to beat the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld, Mitchell is fully aware of how the Sharks agony at losing to the Hurricanes at the end of the game will drive their desperation to make amends at home on Saturday.
Said Mitchell: “Yeah, they’re a good side, they probably deserved two wins in New Zealand. It is very unfortunate they were on the wrong end of the field at the wrong time and they’ll learn from that as well.
“Obviously, been away for a long time they will enjoy being at home. They are throwing the ball around and they are the best offload team in the competition. They score over 30 odd points per game and line break consistently in double figures, so that gives you enough information to let you know that they enjoy attacking.
“They are holding onto the ball a lot longer as well, so Dick Muir’s influence on attack is clearly refreshing them and giving them freedom. It is going to be a big contest.”