The Bulls remain in a “favourable position” to retain their Super 14 title, despite their second loss of the season.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, who could regain the services of two, possibly three, Springboks for their remaining league matches, described their four-match Australasian tour as a success.
Jan De Koning of Rugby 365 writes that despite defeats against the Blues and Reds, both disappointing results, the defending champions collected a healthy 10 points and are second to the Crusaders only on points difference.
And with three of their fours matches – against the Lions, Sharks and Crusaders – at Loftus Versfeld you simply can’t ignore the claims of the men from Pretoria.
Their encounter with the Stormers at Newlands in the final round of league action on May 15 looms as a possible decider.
The good news is that Springboks Chiliboy Ralepelle and Akona Ndungane will return to the squad this week, bringing some much needed experience, while there is a possibility that stalwart lock Bakkies Botha could also be available this week.
While the 12-17 loss to the Reds at the weekend was a setback, it was certainly not the end of the world.
“We are returning home and all but our last game, against the Stormers, are at Loftus,” Ludeke told rugby365.com, when asked about the mood in the camp.
“There is a lot to play for and we are in a very favourable position,” the Bulls mentor said, adding: “There’s a lot of rugby left to play.”
Ludeke said he has confidence that it is within this team’s capability to have a “strong finish” in the competition.
He also spoke of his team’s “massive effort” on defence against what he feels is a very good Reds team.
“We had to put in a big effort on defence and they deserve credit for the manner in which they kept the ball through the phases,” Ludeke said in reference to the 188 tackles made by his team.
He admitted that because the Reds managed to keep the ball for long periods, his team was unable to force their game plan on the match.
“The things that makes us a dangerous team – such as the maul and the scrums, aspects from which we lay a sound foundation – just never got going,” he told rugby365.com.
“Credit to the Reds for the way in which they kept the ball away from us.
“Even from deep inside their own territory they just retained the ball.
“We were forced into making a huge number of tackles and that took its toll on us.”
The Bulls coach said his team had their chances and on a few occasions came very close, but failed to convert.
However, he remained upbeat that they will be there in the final play-off mix.
While some critics will again raise the issue of player fatigue and the need to rest some players, it is unlikely that there will significant changes for their derby against the Lions this coming Saturday.
There are also no serious injuries to report from the encounter with the Reds.Tweet