Warrick Gelant of the Bulls celebrates a try with teammates during the Super Rugby against the Sharks. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Warrick Gelant of the Bulls celebrates a try with teammates during the Super Rugby against the Sharks. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Bulls coach John Mitchell doesn't want his team getting complacent after their recent run of good results. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Bulls coach John Mitchell doesn't want his team getting complacent after their recent run of good results. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Having persevered through the loses on tour before returning home to record two convincing Super Rugby victories over the Stormers at home and the Sharks away, one would not fault the Bulls for starting to think they have turned the corner and will have an easy run to the play-offs.

But Super Rugby is cruel to that kind of thinking even if a team finds itself with a slew of home games like the Bulls do at the moment, starting with today’s encounter against the Melbourne Rebels at Loftus Versfeld (3pm kick-off).

What might seem like an easy run in towards the business end of the competition couldn’t be further from the truth. It would be a big mistake to believe that the results are in the bag before playing the games, as many pitfalls could lie in their path.

This is the kind of thinking that Bulls boss John Mitchell doesn’t want creeping into his players’ heads and, as important as their consecutive wins against the Stormers and Sharks may have been for the confidence of the team, it is just as vital to ensure that they prepare just as hard for the onslaught that the Rebels will come with this afternoon.

It is often in the midst of complacency that even the best are knocked off their perch and the Bulls will be very much aware of that having seen the lowly Jaguares steal victory against the high flying Rebels in Melbourne last weekend.

“We’ve earned it in the last two weeks. What is important to understand is that performance comes with good preparation. So it is about resetting each week and dealing with a new race that has different challenges. I think we are getting used to that kind of thinking. It does keep our feet on the ground and demands of the athlete to make sure that he does his homework, gets his role right so he can arrive on the weekend with clarity and confidence.

“If we at any point in time get ahead of ourselves and don’t take responsibility for that work earlier in the week then we will turn up short. The guys are understanding how important it is that we have to nail each day in order to arrive at the weekend.”

All that preparation during the week should prove worthwhile to the home side especially on the harder and faster surface which is an ideal platform to launch their expansive, attack-minded approach.

The fact that many Australian teams struggle to play on the Highveld, especially in the capital, may play into the hands of the Bulls including the altitude factor which could get to the Rebels and tire them out. “We like playing at home. We like a fast surface and are looking forward to it,” added Mitchell.

Bulls coach John Mitchell doesn't want his team getting complacent after their recent run of good results. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

And without star Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia in their midst, the Rebels will be a bit handicapped while the Bulls will rely on their steely defence to stop the hard-running eighthman Amanaki Mafi who has been at the heart of the Rebels charge this season.

“They will come with the same structures, and attack that is flat and from the back. They are likely to play the same way (without Genia),” said Mitchell.

“He (Mafi) arrives with his carries in certain areas in the game so we’ve got a clear picture of that. We just have to get our shoulders on him.”

As clear as the picture ahead may be, the Bulls won’t be resting on their laurels in the hope that victory will come easily to them.

The men in blue know that they will need to work hard.

“Winning pays the bills. But winning is not the be-all and end-all,” said Mitchell. “What’s important is creating an excited tribe of people that feel like they belong and we create an atmosphere at home where people want to come to.

“Our community is really important to us so we are working very hard to convince the people that our style of football is very much aligned to what some people want to become part of. If we can continue to demonstrate that and along the way get good performances then I’m sure we are going to attract more people who’ll be excited about belonging and coming to Loftus.”

LINE-UPS

Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Johnny Kotze, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Divan Rossouw, Handré Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Marco van Staden, Thembelani Bholi, Roelof Smit, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Pierre Schoeman

Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Lizo Gqoboka, Frans van Wyk, Jason Jenkins, Shaun Adendorff, André Warner, Manie Libbok, Duncan Matthews

Rebels: Dane Haylett-Petty, Jack Maddocks, Tom English, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Jack Debreczeni, Michael Ruru, Amanaki Mafi, Angus Cottrell, Ross Haylett-Petty, Adam Coleman (captain), Matt Philip, Sam Talakai, Anaru Rangi, Tetera Faulkner

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Fereti Sa’aga, Jermaine Ainsley, Geoff Parling, Richard Hardwick, Harrison Goddard, Billy Meakes, Sefa Naivalu

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (NZ)


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