Johannesburg - Even with the services of their Springbok midfield back, the Blue Bulls are facing mission impossible when they head to Bloemfontein this weekend to face the Free State Cheetahs in their last Currie Cup game.
According to the supersport.com website, the Bulls have left it too late to qualify for the semi-finals with their loss against the Sharks a killer blow last weekend, and now they have only a mathematical chance of making the semis.
For one, they are five points behind the Cheetahs - meaning they will need to beat them by scoring four tries and denying the Cheetahs an opportunity to do the same if they are to overhaul the Bloemfontein side on the log.
But even that is not enough, as the Cheetahs have a positive nine points difference and the Bulls a negative 13 - meaning they would need to win by at least 12 points if they are to swing the points differential in their favour.
It is a task which at home may have been possible, but in Bloemfontein seems improbable against a Cheetahs team that enjoys facing their Pretoria counterparts.
Plus, as the Springbok game showed this past weekend, if you set your mind too much on the task at hand, it means you open yourself up to errors which can be punished out wide by the opposition.
What’s more, the loss of Flip van der Merwe will hardly help the Bulls, while Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht’s return should give them more punch in the midfield.
Strangely though, the midfield is one area where the Bulls have been good with Francois Venter and William Small-Smith both playing well of late.
Still, the Bulls will have a tough time to make the semis, and it will be interesting to see what the fallout is if they don’t make the semifinals for the second year in a row.
In coach Pine Pienaar’s defence, he was handed an extremely young side after a series of contracting decisions ripped the heart out of the squad out and saw almost a dozen players leave at the end of Super Rugby.
It was always going to be an uphill struggle with the loss of so many stalwarts, and in particular, the experience of players such as Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann (injured), Willie Wepener, Jano Vermaak and others was massive for the team, and even though they managed to sign a few Kings players, they have struggled to maintain the pace in the competition.
Saturday is their last chance at redemption, but the odds are against them.
But that won’t stop them from trying.