Bulls hold the key for Lions, Sharks and Jaguares
Johannesburg - It wouldn’t have escaped the Bulls attention that they hold the key to the South African conference and their fortunes over the next fortnight could well determine just who will end up in the playoff rounds of the Super Rugby 2018 edition.
The Bulls may have been the masters of their own demise in Singapore and currently have several lingering questions about their own progress in a season where they have confounded to disappoint and not play to their potential, but their last two fixtures will go a long way to determining the outcome of the conference, according to SuperSport.com.
For one, both the Sharks and Lions will be firm supporters of the Bulls this weekend when the high-riding Jaguares head to Loftus Versfeld to see if they can get an eighth straight victory in their march towards the playoffs and in doing so claim the top spot in the conference log.
Sitting three points behind the Lions at the moment, they will overtake the Johannesburg side if they win, sending the conference title to the last match of the tournament for an outcome to be achieved.
The Jaguares have traditionally struggled in South Africa and a win for the Bulls will open the door for the Sharks to try and snatch that second place in a frenetic last weekend for Super Rugby’s regular season.
But then the Bulls have another chance to influence the outcome as they will next week travel to Emirates Airline Park for their final clash with the Lions, a game that the Lions will eagerly be looking forward to. A few minutes after the final whistle the Sharks and Jaguares will have a showdown of their own some 600km away in Durban.
So while the Bulls will start as heavy underdogs in both games, they have the ability - if they can find their form again - to be the big influencers in the last two rounds of the competition.
Still, from a Lions viewpoint the fact that the back door has been opened will be one they will be kicking themselves for, even if coach Swys de Bruin has been trying to downplay the Durban loss this past weekend.
Apart from the points lost on the day and their own inability to put the Sharks away when they had them on the ropes, the Lions lost their first South African derby game in 21 outings, a record that was proudly part of their success under Johan Ackermann and taken further this season by De Bruin.
But now, the chinks in their armour may be showing, and the Jaguares will have smelt blood, leading to a very interesting two weeks indeed.
De Bruin was able to find positives in the loss, even though they were slim pickings.
“The fact that the guys who were out for a long time played well. We kept the ball well and that one try where we changed direction was one to remember. It’s a positive. It is an away game and we go home with a bonus point. We are still top of the log and we will have to fight for that,” he said.
“There is nothing safe yet. We knew that. We wanted to come away with a win and we didn’t. It is obviously not the result we wanted.
“We had scoring chances, and we didn’t use it. It was 21 wins in a row, and to lose one. I’ve been in this game a long time, and I’ve seen a lot. And one of my mentors Piet Strydom said to me, you take it on the chin and you move on. I’m still proud of the team, and I take it on the chin and move on.”
All the Lions can do this weekend is enjoy their bye and sit down and shout for the Bulls. But they will have that nagging sense that they invited the situation they are in with their own mistakes. And come next week, only they will have a chance to make it right before the playoffs.
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