PRETORIA – One cannot fault the Loftus faithful for believing that the glory days are around the corner after their team’s heroics in their past two games.
It has been the wins against the Stormers and the Sharks that have almost every Bulls fan talking up their team as championship material and that it is only a matter of a season or two before they see silverware at Loftus Versfeld.
But the Bulls themselves are not falling for that hype and weight of expectation that is suddenly on their shoulders and has engulfed the capital because of their second place standing on the South African conference.
Instead, the men in blue, along with their coach John Mitchell, are keeping their eyes firmly on the task at hand and making sure that they don’t look too far ahead and chase the pot of fool’s gold that lies at the end of an imaginary rainbow. With the back-to-back victories in the bag, it will be important for the Bulls to back that up with another winning performance at home against the Rebels tomorrow and that is the only pot of gold that Mitchell and his men will be chasing.
“It is very much about upholding our standards. As we surpass the standards we set ourselves we look to chase better standards. That is how we go about it. It is more about our internal and new standards and upholding those than where we sit on the log and the nice pats on the back that we get from time to time.”
“We are also savvy in understanding that if we don’t get it right, we understand what the other side looks like as well. We’ve experienced that for too long so there’s enough motivation to stay on task. Then upholding standards is the right way to go,” Mitchell said.
Bulls captain Burger Odendaal also echoed Mitchell’s sentiments about the team wanting to achieve the weekly goals they set themselves but did acknowledge that it was certainly satisfying to be in a better place on the conference log.
“We set the standards at the beginning of the year on what we want to achieve. It is still training progress for us, every week is a new challenge. If we can go in and meet our standards every week, we will be happy with it. We don’t like the tags that we get at the moment but we are not focussing on that,” Odendaal said.
And the Bulls will have their hands full tomorrow in trying to keep at bay a Rebels team that is fresh off an unlikely loss at home to the Jaguares while their South African-born coach Dave Wessels would have stressed how important a win at Loftus will be for his side.
The Rebels have been the surprise package of the competition this season and besides winning four out of their seven games and lying in sixth spot on the overall log, the men from Melbourne have played some enterprising rugby that will once again put the Bulls’ defence to the test.
“We’ve certainly done our homework on them and they’ve taken a bit more homework than other sides because of what they try to do. They’ll test us but it will be a good challenge,” said Mitchell who made one enforced change to his starting XV with Roelof Smit in at flank and Marco van Staden moving to No 8 for the injured Hanro Liebenberg.
The Bulls starting XV:
Warrick Gelant, Johnny Kotze, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Divan Rossouw, Handre Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Marco van Staden, Thembelani Bholi, Roelof Smit, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Pierre Schoeman.
Jaco Visagie, Lizo Gqoboka, Frans van Wyk, Jason Jenkins, Shaun Adendorff, Andre Warner, Manie Libbok, Duncan Matthews