The mood at Loftus for the past week has been sombre, resembling a herd of men awaiting a funeral of one of their own as they mull over what could have been had they at least won two games on their ill-fated tour – where they lost all four they played.
It was their tour abroad that ended any hope they had of making the play-offs. And to rub salt into the wounds, the talk of an axe hanging over their coach’s head and that of certain individuals in the aftermath of another bad Super Rugby season, has further sunk the Bulls into a bottomless pit of self-pity.
But yesterday Spies summoned whatever positive-ness he has left in him by saying that there was still something left for his team to play for – even though the result will have no bearing on the competition.
“I think the players have done well and we have become aware of the situation we find ourselves in. But we have remained focused on what we want to achieve, the focus has stayed on the field. Not getting the results on tour makes it tougher every week to remain positive. That is the great thing about sport, it puts you in these situations and you have to respond. The players have responded well, we’ve stayed focused on what we want to achieve and we have one more game. Whatever happens after that, that’s thens problem. We are focusing on the Cheetahs this weekend and we want to finish this season on a high.” said Spies yesterday.
The Bulls have gone with their strongest available team bar the injury to Springbok centre Jan Serfontein and the enforced resting of stalwart Victor Matfield with Bulls coach Frans Ludeke making a change at wing where Travis Ismaiel will start ahead of Bjorn Basson and loosehead prop Dean Greyling is suffering with an injury and has been replaced by Morné Mellett with Trevor Nyakane staying on the bench even though he was also meant to be rested.
Ludeke concurred with Spies, saying the team needed to finish the season on a positive note, especially playing at home, and said that he expects their weaknesses on tour to be finally put to rest with a polished performance.
“I think we got closure on the tour as well. Not getting the results on tour cost us and it is the second season in a row that we were not able to get a win. We have put that behind us and we have one game left and the focus is to make sure that we finish on a high.
“We need to play well, we are playing at Loftus and playing against a side that is in the same position as us. They play with a lot of freedom and we would also like to go into the game with an attacking mindset and make sure the execution is there which was at some stage missing on the tour,” Ludeke said.
Bulls: Jesse Kriel, Francois Hougaard, JJ Engelbrecht, Burger Odendaal, Travis Ismaiel, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Pierre Spies (capt), Jacques du Plessis, Arno Botha, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Morné Mellett.
Replacements: Callie Visagie, Trevor Nyakane, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Roelof Smit, Bjorn Basson, Tian Schoeman, Jurgen Visser, Werner Kruger. - The Star
Original source: Bulls out to salvage some pride