Vodacom Super Rugby
Annus horribilis for Bulls
Pretoria - It is official. The Bulls are definitely experiencing a crisis.
If they want to stand any chance whatsoever in this year's Super Rugby tournament, things simply cannot go on like this.
Their 26-21 defeat against the Western Force makes for depressing reading.
Missed opportunities, pathetic option taking by senior players and the growing reality of knowing that your best is simply not good enough anymore are now the harsh reality for this current crop of Bulls.
Even manager Wynie Strydom's usually humorous voice-mail messages are not even funny anymore.
Their fans must surely now start contemplating cancelling their family reunion's out of sheer shame for explaining what has happened to their beloved once-mighty team.
As in previous weeks, it was the same old story for the Bulls.
How many more games will be lost because of balls lost in contact, simple handling errors and just a sheer lack of desire on defence?
And, surely the kick-and-chase tactic in the hope that Bjorn Basson might catch the ball is not the only option?
Yes, Basson is in a class of his own in that regard, but why are they so stubborn to put ball-carriers like Basson and Pierre Spies into space where they're real worth could be properly utilised?
Spies has being transformed into a battering ram, where his limitations - like losing the ball in close-up contact situations - not only costs him his self-confidence, but makes him the weak link in the side.
The blame for ongoing mistakes and a lack of discipline should now be shifted towards the coaching staff.
All the senior players have tasted success in the past, and they know what needs to be done to achieve that success, but the pure lack of trying something new should be the coach's fault.
So, there is a loud and hard knock on Frans Ludeke's door. But, will he open it?
Initially, things looked good for the Bulls. Despite an early penalty from James O'Connor the Bulls looked fiery in the loose and Basson was called back from behind the Force try-line for a forward pass.
Not long afterwards Chiliboy Ralepelle scored from a good driving maul, and even though O'Connor slotted another penalty, Basson coasted through after good lineout play and a piece of individual brilliance from Fourie du Preez.
However, things turned sour for the Bulls in the second period. Not only did O'Connor bring his side back in contention after dumb mistakes from the Bulls, but the inability to keep possession slowly started to unravel the Bulls challenge.
A try by Cameron Sheperd after a woeful defensive effort from Jaco van der Westhuyzen put the Force ahead with 10 minutes to play, which proved to be the killer blow.
A Morné Steyn penalty close to the end did however give the Bulls a consolation bonus point, and they could even have won the game had it not been for a contentious decision from referee Mark Lawrence.
"We have to win everything from here on in if we want to stand any chance," Bulls captain Victor Matfield admitted afterwards.
But, it will take more than just the "Loftus factor" for them to achieve that, because believe it or not, this Bulls team doesn't know how to win anymore.