Bulls to banish away blues?
Pretoria - The Bulls know the next fortnight will be make-or-break for them in this year’s Super Rugby competition, but to come out on top they will need to defeat their own demons of the past two seasons.
The win a month ago in Bloemfontein against the Cheetahs was the only away victory that the Bulls have pulled off in the last two seasons, and it is precisely this tag they will need to shake if they are to make inroads into the playoffs this season, reports the supersport.com website.
The South African conference is massively congested at the moment, with four of the five teams still in contention and separated by a handful of points.
And while the Bulls lead the log by two points, they still face the daunting task of an overseas tour and have just two home games left, with their fate likely to be decided by what happens over the next few weeks where they have three local derbies in a row, two of them away from home.
The first is the trip to Durban this weekend which is a do-or-die battle for the Sharks, as their coach Gary Gold hinted his side could simply not afford to lose the match.
After that the Bulls travel to their traditional Cape showdown against the Stormers, with the Cape side likely to be on a high after returning home from a long tough tour in Australasia.
The third match is at Loftus Versfeld, but encompasses another tough Jukskei derby against the Lions that beat them in the last minute at Ellis Park a week ago.
And if that isn’t enough for the Bulls, their tour doesn’t get much easier, with matches against the Blues, Chiefs, Rebels and Brumbies awaiting them in a long month away from home.
The losing streak away from home hasn’t been an easy one for Frans Ludeke’s side, but they are arguably better side this time around, boosted by the acquisition of their three former Bloemfontein Boks, plus the development of a number of young stars who are pushing hard for a permanent spot in the starting line-up.
And while normally the prospect of two away from home derbies may be tough but not daunting, it is a massive test of character of a side that still needs to quell its own demons on this front.
Recent results have suggested the Bulls are growing in stature, are rebuilding well with a number of their young stars back in contention, but it has also suggested that there still are a number of weak areas in the team.
The Bulls have slowly started to iron these out, but there is no doubt that in the cauldrons of King’s Park and Newlands, there will be no place to hide.
"We know what to expect from the Sharks," coach Frans Ludeke said after Saturday’s win over the Reds.
"Getting the bonus point (against the Reds) was crucial for us and we will take it one-by-one, week for week, but we know this is a really crucial period."
Two wins on the road, followed by a home win over the Lions will have gone a long way to securing the South African conference before they start their tour.
Losing all three will almost certainly have stopped them from making the playoffs.
Either way the Bulls know it is them who need to stand up in the next fortnight to show their resolve.
The pressure is on at Loftus, in more ways than one.