PRETORIA – The Bulls will certainly go into tomorrow’s Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Hamilton as the underdogs and they would not have it any other way, according to Springbok lock Lood de Jager.
Coming off two consecutive defeats and having last won in New Zealand in 2013, the Bulls have what seems to be an insurmountable challenge against the Chiefs but it could just be the motivation the men from Pretoria need to carve out an unlikely victory.
“It definitely doesn’t surprise me at all. People always write you off coming to New Zealand because their franchise rugby is so strong. Coming here you are always the underdog and it is going to give us more freedom to go out there and play, we have nothing to lose.
We have our backs against the wall a bit, so we can go out and express ourselves and try to get a win on Friday,” said De Jager.
But besides the bad record South African teams have when playing in the Land of the Long White Cloud, the Bulls haven’t aided their cause after their loss against the Queensland Reds last weekend, in which they surrendered a 14-3 lead to losing 20-14.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Bulls are going through growing pains with different aspects of their game being exposed in the match.
Against the Lions it was the failings of the line-outs that led to their loss and against the Reds, the Bulls failed to get dominance in the scrums and lacked the killer instinct on attack.
“I think it is very important. You can’t compete on a high level competition if your set-piece doesn’t function. I think our line-outs, scrums and mauls with our line-outs against the Lions cost us a couple of tries and last week against the Reds our scrum wasn’t up to par and we conceded a couple of penalties there.
We will definitely try and rectify that and have a solid set-piece going into the next couple of games,” added De Jager.
De Jager admits that the loss in Brisbane was not the way in which they wanted to start their tour but they have done sufficient preparation this week to stand them in good stead to challenge the Chiefs.
“We were definitely disappointed with the result against the Reds. We wanted to start the tour on a good note with a win but we’ve put that behind us. We are looking forward to this weekend, it is going to be a massive challenge against the Chiefs but we will prepare well and hopefully it goes well,” added De Jager.
De Jager is showing glimpses of the form that made him the best player in the country in 2015 and one of the standout players at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England and has attributed his turn around in form to Mitchell and the Bulls ball-in-hand approach.
“I think a guy like Mitchell definitely plays a massive role in that. He spoke to me earlier in the year and he said he just wants me to play and not worry too much about making mistakes. He said I must go out there and give it my all and that has taken the pressure off my shoulders.
It has been good and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and hopefully I can contribute to the team in more ways than one and we can play winning rugby,” said De Jager. “I’ve really enjoyed the attack this year and ... we can go out and express ourselves. It has definitely been nice and hopefully we can build on that for the rest of the season.”
The Bulls starting XV:
Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Divan Rossouw, Handre Pollard, Andre Warner, Hanro Liebenberg, Thembelani Bholi, Roelof Smit, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka, Conraad van Vuuren, Jason Jenkins/Tim Agaba, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier, Manie Libbok, Johnny Kotze