The Bulls, with the bitter taste of failure still strong in their collective memory banks, are resolute in their belief that they can reproduce the highs of their 2007 triumph in the Super 14.
Having won two years ago, only to slump to 10th place last year, was a bitter pill to swallow for the pride of Pretoria.
But they aim to set the record straight when the tournament gets underway next month, reports Jan de Koning of Rugby365.com.
Springbok utility back Jaco Pretorius, recruited from the neighbouring Lions in the off-season, said the key to success for the Bulls is “belief”.
Speaking to rugby365.com during a break in training this week, Pretorius said he is “enjoying every minute” of his first stint with the Bulls.
He added that he needed the change, not because of anything the Lions have or have not done, but because he just wanted to avoid getting stale.
Now, with his own energy levels invigorated, Pretorius is feeding off the belief the Bulls players have in their own ability to succeed in the Super Rugby arena.
“At this level there is very little physical difference between the players, or the talent of the players,” Pretorius told rugby365.com.
“There certainly is not a massive difference in the ability of the players.
“It is more the belief in the ability that you can do it and that is why it is such a privilege, because there is so many players [at the Bulls] who know they can do it, a team who know they can put 90 points on the board against a Super 14 team if they have to.
“That is the privilege of being involved with the Bulls as opposed to the Lions – at the Lions you never really had that belief, because at the Lions we always struggled.
“However, at the Bulls they belief they can do it and go on to win again.”
The two-times capped Bok said the Bulls describe this as the toughest pre-season training they have ever had.
“It is because they are so determined to put the disappointment of 2008 behind them and get that pride back in that light blue jersey,” he added.
He said the pre-season training camp in George, before the festive season, afforded him the opportunity to get to know his new teammates – learn the structures and settle into the team and to get used to the Bulls culture.
He said the Bulls’ goals for the season are very clear – they aim to get back to the standards of 2007.
“The Crusaders have done it – 10th the one year and the next year winning the Super 12 without losing a game. That is the Bulls’ goal, not to go for permutations of winning this and giving up that … it is to win every game.
“It [winning the Super 14] has been done before and the Bulls showed they can be at that level. A number of the players have been there, winning the Super 14, and they are determined to do it again.
“The way we trained since we got together in George, it is clear, we aim to dominate every game and win the Super 14.”
He is disinclined to dismiss the Lions, his team for seven years, making it clear he was always treated very well during his lengthy spell in Johannesburg.
“For me any change would have been good, because I was in the same structures [at the Lions] for so long and became part of it. I just needed that change,” he said, adding: “Just the fact that I’m doing different types of training and I’m learning from the senior players, is what I am enjoying and what is giving me that boost in energy.
“I was looking for that change and that is why I’m so happy. The Lions were very good to me all those years, their structures are just as good, but for me as an individual it is about the change.”
While he is keen to specialise at outside centre, after floating around in the Lions backline, the former South African Sevens captain said he will do “anything” required of him by his new employers.
“I certainly don’t have the right to make any demands about where I want to play.
“I can only give my best and play where they need me – whether I must carry water bottles or play at centre, which is where I want to be, it is all the same.
“Yes, I am looking to specialise at No.13, but I know I don’t have the right to make any positional demands.”
With a return to the coveted Green and Gold club still one of his goals, Pretorius hopes his move to Pretoria will be the spark that lifts his game to the required levels.
“The Bulls’ structures are superb and there is a reason why they play in finals and win finals.
“I am privileged to be part of these structures, to play with so many senior Boks around me means I can learn a lot. I have been around for a while, but the nice part is I can still learn and I have around me players who have won finals and won the Super 14 and I can learn from them.
“Obviously there’s pressure and expectations – expectations from myself, the other players and from the union.
“I can only do my best and hope that is enough, so that I can contribute to the team and maybe that gets me back into Bok contention. If it doesn’t happen, that is also fine, but I don’t just want two Test caps to my name, I would like 20 or more.
“Hopefully this is the boost I needed, whether that is to get back into the Bok team or play in a Currie Cup-winning team.”
The 29-year-old Pretorius made his provincial debut for the Lions in 2001.
Pretorius has since then played in more than 60 matches for the Lions and is one of the better attacking centres in the country. His running lines are superb and his ball distribution skills combined with his speed are expected to add exceptional value to the Bulls.Tweet