PRETORIA – It has been five years since the Bulls enjoyed a winning start to the Super Rugby competition and three years from their last victory over New Zealand opposition.
When the win eventually came on Saturday against the Hurricanes, it inspired a belief in the capital city that the sleeping giants of Super Rugby are finally waking up from their slumber.
In fact, talk around is that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season and they will wind back the clock to the glory years when they ruled the competition with an iron fist.
And while the man responsible for, what will be widely regarded as the dawn of a new era at Loftus Versfeld, was apprehensive to jump on the bandwagon after his team’s hard fought 21-19 win against a star-studded Hurricanes outfit, John Mitchell sounded a warning to their opponents of a team that can get better.
The Bulls defied the odds in producing patches of good rugby but most importantly, the men in blue played with heart, ambition and hunger last seen years ago as they laid bare their intentions of no longer being the whipping boys and instead contenders for top honours in the competition.
It was far from the perfect showing that Mitchell so demands of his team, but for now it will be sufficient to give their campaign a much needed boost and lay the foundation to what can be an unforgettable season if they get things right.
“It was good to win but it wasn’t pretty out there. The guys fought and we endured the distance of the match far greater than they did which was encouraging. We always knew that we were ready but it was a matter of whether we could go the distance and get through the untidy periods. We are probably very fortunate when an untidy period just after half-time where we didn’t concede.
We just spent too much time in our own half and the game is always going to be full of mistakes. It is actually how you respond and get yourself out of those situations and send away the opposition. Sending them away, we eventually got some field position and we created enough havoc and pressure,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, though, is reluctant on drowning in the sea of euphoria and blind optimism after just one outing with him at the helm of the team and is asking his players to remain humble and with fire in their bellies not to be content with anything until they get their hands on the most coveted trophy in the southern hemisphere.
The former All Blacks and Lions coach, Mitchell, is well aware of the long road that lies ahead and that to stay on top his side will need to get better by the game and also have the depth in personnel to keep them going as a collective.
“We’ll have our bad days and fall short as well, that is just the nature of the trade. But we have to put our feet on the ground, get back to work and make sure that we always have enough attention on learning, getting better and never being satisfied. Clearly you have to deal with knocks in this competition, and we have to see how the bodies have recovered as well,” added Mitchell.
The Bulls will host the Lions on Saturday in what will be another acid test for Mitchell’s men and their ability to grow and be consistent in performance and outcome.