PRETORIA – Bulls coach Pote Human has called on his players to “pitch up” over the next three weeks or see their season fade into oblivion.
Their 22-10 defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra saw them slip from the top of their perch in the South African conference to third place, just four points behind the leading Jaguares and a point off the second-placed Sharks.
While the Bulls were still within reach of earning a play-off berth, the wheels could come off if they lose their remaining three matches.
The Bulls have arrived in Auckland for the start of their New Zealand leg of the tour against the Blues without the services of Duane Vermeulen and Handre Pollard.
It has been six years since the Bulls won a Super Rugby match in New Zealand, when they beat the Blues 28-21 in Auckland.
“We can’t afford to lose another game, and we know it is going to be difficult, but we don’t have a choice but to beat the Blues, there is no turning back,” Human said. “If we want to have any chance of reaching the play-offs, we will have to win the next three games, and two are unfortunately in New Zealand.
“Three finals await us; we will have to approach each game like it is a final and make sure we do our best to win the games.”
Human was at a loss for words over his side’s inability to string together consecutive victories.
A week ago the Bulls looked like they had finally found their groove, only to capitulate against the Brumbies, conceding four tries.
“We were very positive about the week, but we didn’t use our opportunities and conceded soft tries,” Human said. “We conceded stupid penalties, making it easier for them, and in the end we beat ourselves. The guys made individual mistakes on defence, and it cost us.”
They were well organised on defence against the Rebels in Melbourne, but it was absent against the Brumbies with the Bulls missing 30 of their tackles.
One-on-one tackles gave the Brumbies easy access across the advantage line with Wallaby centre Tivani Kuridrani carving the Bulls’ defences with a hat-trick of tries in Canberra.
“We won the game against the Rebels thanks to our defence, and this weekend it cost us,” Human said. “It is an attitude problem where the players have to pitch up every weekend if we want to maintain a high standard.”