Bulls keep feet on ground
Johannesburg - The Bulls may be enjoying a week of rest and relaxation, but despite their lead at the top of the South African conference and the massive boost to their championship hopes that the last weekend of rugby action has provided them, they certainly won’t be resting on their laurels just yet.
According to the supersport.com website
, there was a mark of satisfaction on the Bulls' faces after their 48-14 demolition job on the Hurricanes on the weekend, and coupled with the Crusaders' 30-23 win over the Brumbies, it brought them right back into contention for a top-two place and therefore a chance of a home semi-final.
But the Bulls know all too well that their success will rely not only on their own form, but on that of the rest of the South African teams, with the last few weeks of rugby action set to determine just who will come out on top of the South African conference.
It is exactly this reason - the fact that the South African conference is far from run - that has coach Frans Ludeke warning his team that they haven’t achieved anything yet.
The Bulls know that despite their good position at the top of the SA conference, they still have away visits to Bloemfontein, Durban and Cape Town waiting, and those will determine their fate in the conference this year.
The way the competition is structured means a derby win is as good as double points, not only because of those you gain, but those you deny any other team chasing you and at this point in time all three other SA sides can still surpass the Bulls if the Pretoria side has a bad run into the playoffs.
The game against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein will be do-or-die for the Cheetahs, who have never beaten the Bulls in Super Rugby and will ultimately determine their fate.
The Stormers and Sharks are both in situations where they simply cannot afford to lose anymore should they want to make the playoffs and that makes them very difficult opponents indeed.
This is why Ludeke has had a simple message throughout his tenure: take it week by week. As the competition has shown so many times before, a week is a long time in Super Rugby and can easily kill off any hopes that you’ve had.
“It’s early days. We felt on our tour, in the last two games (against the Reds and Brumbies), we were competitive. We felt the results could have gone our way in Australia. In the last three weeks we have been accurate, and we have got the results for it. We have got three solid wins and the win built on that foundation, so it is rewarding,” Ludeke explained.
“But we are aware that it is early days, we have a week off and we then face the Highlanders at home. We can never think that far, it is still early in the season. We’ll enjoy this week, and I think the players will enjoy it a lot. After a win like this, it is a nice way to go into a break. Then it is back to business.”
The Highlanders next weekend will be the last overseas side the Bulls will play until the playoffs. Then the local derbies begin again.
Home and away against the Sharks, home against the Kings and away against the Cheetahs and Stormers - games that could easily raise a campaign or could slaughter its chances.
Ludeke knows that, and given the Bulls' success under him, week by week is all he could ever ask for from his players.