Instead of making steady progress and continuing on their upward trajectory, the men in blue came unstuck against the Brumbies and Waratahs which left them vulnerable and at risk of missing the play-offs.
With the derby against the Stormers looming large, which will be followed by yet another derby against the high-flying Lions, it will be important for the Bulls to find the magic that saw them go on seven match unbeaten run before coming unstuck against the Brumbies.
It was glaring to see in Canberra and Sydney that they had reverted to their old ways and retreated into the safety of their kraal.What has been missing in the past two weeks has been their fearless and free spirited brand of rugby which was not only effective in downing opposition but it was also pleasing to the eye.
The Bulls have been found wanting at times in the scrums, even though they showed huge improvement against the Waratahs, while the lack of dominance in the line-outs and breakdown was at the heart of them failing to impress.If they are to continue on the same downward spiral against a Stormers team that was equally dismal in their draw against the Sunwolves in Singapore, then Saturday’s anticipated blockbuster encounter could disintegrate into a bore fest that could signal the demise of both teams' aspirations.
For the better part of the season the Bulls have shown that they are not short of talent, even with the mass exodus over the past three years of some of their stalwarts and have surprisingly often played beyond the inexperience of their years as a team.
But the true test of whether this Bulls team has made significant progress will be judged in the next two weeks as they have to conduct a fine balancing act of keeping their emotions in check while returning to the brand of rugby that will see them overcome both the Stormers and Lions.
As the Bulls grapple with reinventing themselves in less than a week before facing the old foe, they were handed a timely boost yesterday with news that wing Travis Ismaiel, fullback Warrick Gelant, lock Grant Hattingh and centre Burger Odendaal could all be in contention for selection.
“We had the good news that Warrick Gelant, Grant Hattingh and Burger Odendaal made good progress in recovery process and they will fall in with the team as of tomorrow (today). I’m not sure if they will be available for the weekend but they will be training with the rest of the squad,” said Bulls team doctor Herman Rossouw on Monday.
Gelant’s absence since breaking his jaw over a month ago has been felt by the Bulls as they have lacked that injection of speed and unpredictability on attack, while Odendaal has always been a handful for opposition defences with his hard running and line breaks.
The experience of Hattingh could be valuable in the high pressured games of the next two weeks even though RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins and Marvin Orie have grown tremendously during his absence.
Original source: Time for the real Bulls to stand up