WATCH: Bulls to make it 'uncomfortable' for Highlanders
It’s been one of the more forgettable starts to a Super Rugby campaign for the Pretoria side and their coach, Pote Human, looked decidedly lost for words and ideas at their Wednesday press conference.
“Everything,” he said, when probed about which areas needed urgent attention in the team in order to salvage even an ugly draw against the Highlanders tomorrow.
“We had a great week again but counts for nothing; what counts is what happens on Saturday on the field.”
At least the coach has put the handbrake down in his team selection by bringing Manie Libbok (22) in to start at flyhalf ahead of Morne Steyn (35), who drops to the bench.
At junior level, Libbok could play full-back as well as outside centre, and possesses the kind of speed that made Beauden Barrett the most dangerous rugby player on the planet.
Where Libbok lacks is his game-management. But there will be nothing for him to manage if the Bulls are porous in defence, as they were when they got lashed 39-24 by the Jaguares at home last weekend.
It was as if the game was being played in Buenos Aires or Salta. The Bulls were constantly in retreat, turned into putty in the face of the Jaguares maul and the Argentine backs went through their defence like a swarm of locusts to a maize field.
Although they had moments where their attack clicked - such as when Warrick Gelant and Cornal Hendricks scored - those were fleeting glimpses of what they could do.
The nature of their previous defeats has also taken on multiple personalities. They lost a dog-fight against the Sharks in round one before going completely blank against the Stormers and then bottling a sure-bet against the Blues the weekend after their bye.
To get their desired victory they have to be clinical on offence and stubborn in defence. What’s more, they have been bullied twice at home this year, where, as captain Trevor Nyakane pointed out, they should be giving the teams hell.
The Bulls and Highlanders drew 24-24 in Dunedin the last time they met and Lima Sopoaga’s last-minute penalty won a 29-28 cliffhanger at their last meeting in Pretoria. This makes the match-up quite tricky for the home team.
“Teams are bit comfortable now coming to Loftus,” Nyakane said.
“We need to let teams know that when they come here it’s not just going to be a walk in the park.
“Even when I was at the Cheetahs, you feared to come to Loftus; it was a very tough place to come play. We need to try to bring that back.
“The Highlanders like fast rugby and to keep the ball in play. That’s what they are going to bring here to Loftus but we know what we need to do to counter that and make it more uncomfortable for them.”@Sbu_Mjikeliso