Bulls staying true to their cause
Cape Town - For a side that has lost just once in five matches, the Bulls are taking a lot of flak.
The Pretoria-based side have not lost since the opening weekend of Super Rugby when they fell apart in the second half against the Stormers at Newlands to go down 33-9.
But a closer look suggests a lack of consistency that coach Nollis Marais and captain Adriaan Strauss have been vocal on.
The Bulls themselves are not happy with their performances so far.
After the Stormers, the Bulls shipped four straight second-half tries against the Rebels at Loftus to lose a bonus point, drew to the Sharks at home, edged the lowly Sunwolves away and then last weekend another poor second half display allowed the Cheetahs back into the match - the Bulls winning 23-18 in the end.
Played five, won three, drawn one, lost one - not bad for a side that is undergoing a metamorphosis, but the performances that have accompanied the results have not been as encouraging.
Marais, though, has re-emphasised the bigger picture as his side prepares for this Saturday's trip to Port Elizabeth to take on the rejuvenated Kings.
The message from the coach is clear: successfully executing a more expansive brand of rugby will take time.
Marais gave a passionate and honest account of the current state of affairs at Loftus when he announced his team for the weekend on Wednesday.
"My main focus is, and I’ve said to the guys previously … it might not be the 80 minute performance that we’re looking for yet but we mustn’t vary from the way we want to play in the next couple of games," Marais said.
"It might not be ‘lekker’, it might not be nice every time … but we have to stick to it.
"We had a lot of opportunities to go out wide this weekend (against the Cheetahs) and we didn’t do it.
"We got back in old habits and started playing like we were under pressure."
Marais is looking for his players to focus solely on the team's philosophy and to ignore any criticism that might come from outside of the camp.
"We mustn’t see anything else now but where we want to be and taking the steps to getting there," he said.
"I will always be hard on it … we have to change the way we think about things and how we approach things.
"Unfortunately, it’s now time for us to do it and we’re starting something brand new from the beginning.
"It doesn’t always look to the media or the fans like we have a plan … but that’s not the thing.
"We’ve got to sit with the players and make sure they understand it … but because they haven’t played that way for numerous years, it’s a different mind-set for them.
"The only way they can play is by trial and error. There are certain things that we need to control like set-pieces and game management, and that will only get better with time."
Saturday's clash at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium kicks off at 19:15.