The Bulls are still aiming at a Super 14 semi-final berth, even though they have lost three successive matches on their tour of Australasia.
The reigning champions, with two key players injured, must now earn the maximum number of log points in each of their remaining six matches to reach the play-offs.
However, there is concern about the fitness of hooker Derick Kuün and flyhalf Derick Hougaard as the Bulls go into the make-or-break stage of the competition.
Morris Gilbert writes in Beeld that Bulls coach Frans Ludeke maintains that a semi-final berth is not an unrealistic target.
“There are still 30 points available,” Ludeke said on Sunday. “We are going flat out for fourth place on the log. And even if we don’t make it, we will at least know we tried our best.”
The Bulls, beaten 23-21 by the Blues in Auckland last Saturday, face the Western Force in Perth on Friday before returning to South Africa.
To remain in contention for the play-offs, they have to win in Perth and register their first full haul of points of the season.
After this week, they have four successive home matches: against the Hurricanes on April 12, the Highlanders on April 19, the Waratahs on May 3 and the Brumbies on May 9.
‘We believe in ourselves’
“Our inspiring performance against the Blues showed the turning point is just around the corner,” Ludeke said.
After saying earlier that the team’s performance curve was climbing, Ludeke on Sunday pointed out “the huge difference between the matches against the Blues and the Reds.
“We scored three tries against the Chiefs and another three against the Blues. It proves we are now getting to be more at ease with the experimental laws. We believe in ourselves again, which will make the road ahead so much easier.”
The Stormers showed up weaknesses in the Force’s make-up at the weekend but the Bulls expect a huge onslaught from the South Australian flagship team.
“They’ve been wounded and this makes them dangerous,” Ludeke said. “Instead of concentrating too much on them, we must carry on from where we left off against the Blues. The rest will follow.”
Ludeke feels the most heartening aspect of the performance in Auckland is that they have overcome their “first-half syndrome”.
“We were a threat to the Blues for eighty minutes,” he said.
However, the coach is concerned about Kuün and Hougaard. Kuün, one of the stars throughout the tour, has a sore rib and a thigh injury. Hougaard, whose consistency is highly valued, has a sore buttocks muscle.
Unless injuries force his hand, Ludeke won’t change the starting lineup for this week’s match. Momentum and continuity are now the priorities.Tweet