PRETORIA – Don't be deceived by the Bulls’s four losses this season.
It is only a matter of time before the Pretoria outfit compliment their inspiring performances with victories that will see them feast at Super Rugby’s top table, so says scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl.
Van Zyl says the men from Loftus Versfeld have not lost any confidence after suffering a string of defeats before and during their tour.
In fact, it is their win over the Stormers a fortnight ago that has inspired the Bulls to chase yet another victory, this time against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
“Ultimately, you play to win ... we obviously go out there to be the best and win against every team,” said Van Zyl who missed the better part of the season so far after undergoing a shoulder operation.
“At this stage not all the results have gone our way but it is good stuff being built on, good stuff. We are not losing our confidence. The losses aren’t breaking our confidence because we know where we are heading. But we are definitely searching for that W every single time.
We are not going out there to be a little bit better than last week, we are going out there to win. Sooner or later it is going to be put together and everything is going to work out.”
And while there has been much praise going the way of the Sharks for their performances in New Zealand, Van Zyl feels that they are also a team that is playing with flair and will certainly be a major threat in the not too distant future.
The turnaround in the Bulls performances to being one of the most feared teams on attack in the competition, has been largely due to the influence of coach John Mitchell, according to Van Zyl.
“Since coach Mitch took over last year in the Currie Cup, he started to implement a lot of things, especially on defence and playing with more flair and giving ourselves more opportunities with ball in hand. Since last year it has already been evolving and when Super Rugby started we kept on building on it.
That game against the Hurricanes and seeing everything coming together on that first game was special. The things he is implementing are brilliant and it is good stuff being built on good stuff and it doesn’t happen overnight ... it’s just getting better every day and training,” said Van Zyl.
The 22-year-old is one of the many new faces Mitchell has placed his faith in since taking over the reins and his reputation has been enhanced further by former Springbok and Bulls captain Fourie du Preez’s comment that he should represent the Springboks.
Van Zyl is humbled by the sentiment.
“Definitely, for me (Du Preez) is one of the best nines to have played the game and a big role model for me growing up. He is one of the Affie (Afrikaans Hoer Seunskool) boys and I was really honoured when he said those things about me.
But at the end of the day, it is only words and his opinion but it is hard work if I want to make those words a reality.”
However, Van Zyl’s place in the team is not guaranteed and he faces stiff competition from the likes of Junior Springbok Embrose Papier and Andre Warner, who have both played the bulk of the games this year.
Van Zyl, though, is hopeful that competition for the coveted Bulls No 9 jersey will get the best out of him and see him emulate the heroics of his childhood hero Du Preez and that legendary Bulls team, which won Super Rugby three times in four seasons.
“The more competition there is, it brings out the best in everyone. Everyone needs to be on their toes and make sure they play to the best of their ability. We are all here for one goal, obviously you want to be the starting nine and want to be the best, but we need each other to be better.
There is stuff I can learn from them and there is stuff they can learn from me. In the end we are here with one goal to make the Bulls great, to fill Loftus Versfeld and to make that a reality.
Obviously, you want to play every week but that is up to the coach and if you do your part at the end it will work out,” Van Zyl said.