Pretoria - Bulls coach Nollis Marais is not expecting his Bulls side to qualify for the Super Rugby playoffs this year.
It has been a woeful campaign for the Pretoria-based side, who have lost six of their nine fixtures, including a 21-20 loss to the Sunwolves in Tokyo and a 68-24 thrashing from the Crusaders at Loftus last weekend.
It leaves the Bulls 12 points behind the Stormers in Africa Conference 1, though they do have a game in hand.
With the Sharks and the Lions in good form in Africa Conference 2, only the winners of Africa Conference 1 are expected to secure a playoff spot.
It means that, if the Bulls had to secure an unlikely playoff berth, they would have to finish ahead of the Stormers.
But Marais is not expecting much.
"I think it will be very difficult to make a play-off spot now," he told media on Thursday.
"If the Stormers slip up, then we might be able to."
The coach added that thinking about knockouts at a time like this would not be beneficial.
"I said to the guys, 'don't even focus on that'. They need to focus on the next step, and the next step is this weekend," said Marais.
"In rugby, anything is possible. You never know, but it doesn't help talking about playoffs if we don't focus on what we're doing this weekend."
The Bulls are underdogs again on Saturday when they host the Highlanders at Loftus.
Kick-off is at 15:05.
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Coenraad van Vuuren, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Jan Serfontein
15 Matt Faddes, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 5 Alex Ainley, 4 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Aki Seiuli
Substitutes: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Teihorangi Walden