CAPE TOWN –The Bulls will not only have to nurse a bruised ego after another fruitless trip to Newlands, but will also have to count their walking wounded.
Pote Human’s team have now gone eight years without a victory over their arch-rivals, the Stormers, in the Cape. The hurt of the latest defeat will be compounded, though, if the Bulls have to face the Waratahs at Loftus this week without their first-choice centre pairing.
Both Jessie Kriel and Burger Odendaal left the Newlands clash with injuries. Wing Jade Stighling also endured a bump to his cheekbone and was replaced early in the first half.
“Jesse will undergo a scan on his ankle, while Burger got a really bad knock on his eye. He’s got blood into his eye, so we are really worried about that. He was sent to hospital to have it seen to,” coach Human said.
The Stormers certainly didn’t have matters their own way in Saturday’s fiercely-contested South African derby.
Every time the home team looked to put daylight between them and the Bulls, they visitors came roaring back. Human’s team inched back from 14-0 down to lead 16-14 and then eventually fell just one point short after going down 24-16 in the last quarter.
“I thought the Stormers really put us under a lot of pressure in the first 20 minutes,” Human said. “They outplayed us in the first 20 minutes and we woke up a bit late, and it’s difficult to play catch-up rugby all the time.
“But we just told the guys to calm down because we panicked a bit. I think after that we had enough chances to win this one. We fought back really well after being 14-0 down, and we were in the game for the rest of the match.
“That soft try cost us in the second half, and we didn’t make those final passes.”
The defeat at Newlands, coupled with the Sharks’ victory in Sydney over the Waratahs, has meant the Bulls have slipped down to second-place on the SA conference standings.
Human remains confident his charges can recover from their latest defeat to qualify for the playoffs if they return to winning ways at home.
“I think our home games are going to be crucial,” he said. “Any team can beat anybody in this SA conference. If the Stormers had managed a bonus point, they would have been above us. There is pressure, but it’s like that for all the teams.
“We have some big teams coming to Loftus. The Waratahs are a good team and then it’s the Crusaders. And then we go on tour.
“There is a lot of rugby still to be played with seven rounds remaining before the playoffs. But I am confident we have the team and the players.”@ZaahierAdams