Pretoria - They may not have pushed the panic buttons just yet, but the Blue Bulls team management will get a dose of reality when they meet with their bosses on Wednesday to discuss the current poor run of form.
The supersport.com website reports that while Currie Cup coach Pine Pienaar always knew it was going to be a tough campaign after the departure of several senior players and several Springboks also out, losses in the past two weeks to Western Province and the Lions have left the Bulls firmly rooted at the bottom of the log and in real danger of having to face a promotion-relegation playoff match at the end of the season.
Pienaar and co will meet with a host of senior officials including BBRU president Louis Nel to discuss elements of their season that haven’t gone as planned for the side.
This weekend they face Griquas in Kimberley, a game which has suddenly become massive for them as the Kimberley side moved above them with their victory over the Sharks and a loss near the big hole will literally leave the Bulls with a mountain to climb.
With just five games left, the Bulls will need to find their feet soon or they will be wondering what could have been with a plethora of young talent that is finding it hard to play well at this level.
Pienaar is all too aware of the situation, and knows that the chips are really down at the moment, especially with expectation much higher than the team’s performance right now.
“The competition is short. If we’re not careful, we will run out of games. If you don’t win the next five you will be out. It is a reality and the players know it. Every week will now be a fight for us. I believe if we stick together - there will be a lot of criticism and it is right that it happens. But if we stick together now, we will get through. If we turn on each other now, then the little confidence that we have left will also be gone,” Pienaar said.
But while the Bulls had some good spots against the Lions, their defensive lapses cost them dearly. In the midfield in particular, the poor defence of Johann Sadie must prompt a rethink and a recall for the likes of Ulrich Beyers or a move for JJ Engelbrecht into the midfield.
Pienaar lamented these lost chances that cost them so dearly against the Lions and knows he can ill afford them again, especially on a hostile hard field in Kimberley.
“As I said last week, you can put guys there in the channel and you expect them to make the tackles. If they can’t make the tackle, then the whole side is under pressure. This week again we came up short with that. This is something we will have to have a look at, maybe there are other players that can tackle,” Pienaar said.
The Bulls know all too well how easily a season can unravel, and the current problems will be a testament to the character that is in the side at the moment. But unless they find a way to turn the ship around, they may find their fate is in others hands. And the prospect of a playoff match in the last two weeks of the competition - against a motivated EP Kings side - is hardly their idea of how the season should end.
Captain Dewald Potgieter has been very focused on sorting out the problem and knows he has a massive task in getting the young players together to right the wrongs. Yet, in a competition where the margin for error is so small, the Bulls may be helped out by some of the inconsistent results that have been a feature of the competition thus far.
“If you look at the facts we’re gonna have to win the next five games. But I don’t want the guys to focus on five games, when we can’t even be at our best from day to day, from week to week. I’m just going to focus on next job at hand. We had a tough week. The big thing will be to get together and not let the guys jump off the ship just yet,” Potgieter said.
“We’ve seen that any team can beat another team, so maybe there are a couple of teams that will do favours for us. If that is the case we can’t let ourselves down, we need to do everything we can do and we can’t look back at the end of the season and say we didn’t make it because of this or that. I want to make sure I do the right things. I still want the guys to feel it is in our hands, and it isn’t out of reach."