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Bulls now on auto pilot

17 June 2019 - 13:13 By Liam Del Carme
Manie Libbok of the Vodacom Bulls celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during the Super Rugby match against the Emirates Lions at Loftus Versfeld on June 15, 2019.
Manie Libbok of the Vodacom Bulls celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during the Super Rugby match against the Emirates Lions at Loftus Versfeld on June 15, 2019.
Image: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images

The Bulls will hit autopilot as they wing their way to Wellington to face the Hurricanes in next Saturday’s (09.35am) quarter-final.

They are likely to be knackered by the time they reach the New Zealand capital midnight on Monday and time off their feet will be critical in their recovery.

Besides‚ they’ve trained enough to get themselves into this position.

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“We have to take it easy. Now it is only a mental thing.

"You don’t have to work very hard. The guys know what is expected of them‚” said coach Pote Human after his team vanquished the Lions 48-27 at Loftus on Saturday.

“It is a knock-out phase so everybody is on zero. I know the Hurricanes are a very good side.

"They have the most wins in the competition. It is going to be tough over there but I really believe we have the team to do it.”

The Bulls will be up against it.

Achieving away wins on another continent are rarities in Super Rugby. Human remains sanguine.

“It will only be a great season if we win Super Rugby and I believe we can do it‚" he said.

"It will be difficult. If we beat them then maybe we go to Buenos Aires and then back to Christchurch. It will be a long trip but I know we can do it.”

The Bulls will be boosted by a few additions.

The coach confirmed that cente Jesse Kriel‚ hooker Schalk Brits and lock Jason Jenkins are fit to make the trip but that lock Lood de Jager will remain behind.

Captain Handre Pollard beamed at the fact that unlike previous seasons‚ the Bulls as a collective don’t have to watch the knock-out phases from a distance.

It will be his first experience of the Super Rugby play-offs after joining the franchise in 2014.

“It has been a long time. It has been a few firsts this season‚ like first win on tour. It’s great. Now you get the reward for all those tough times. The guys are very excited.

“We didn’t get all the wins and at times we played really poorly this season‚” chuckled Pollard.

“We learnt from that and I think what happened in this match came as a result of the tour.

"We really fought for those two draws in New Zealand‚ that was massive. I think that confidence came through.”

Pollard was stoked about the fact that he Kriel‚ Jenkins‚ Brits‚ RG Snyman‚ Duane Vermeulen could bow out at Loftus in style.

“It was great to give the fans something positive like this. Something good to remember us by.”

Their focus‚ however‚ has shifted across the Indian Ocean to where the Hurricanes lie in wait.

Lions coach Swys de Bruin knows too well the difficulties the Bulls are likely to face having made the trip to the final in New Zealand in 2016 and 2018.

“They will have to get the breakdowns right‚” cautioned De Bruin‚ referring to very recent experience.

“The Hurricanes live on the offside line.

"Pote will have to sort out the offside line. We wish them well. I hope they get a fair deal. I will get fined if I give my opinion.”

Whatever the trip throws up‚ Pollard‚ the newbie to Super Rugby play-offs‚ sees it as a challenge for which they are enthused.

“The pressure will be on us‚" he said.

"Between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes it is close to who is the best team is in the comp.

"At the Cake Tin the Hurricanes are incredibly hard to beat. That is what we are going over for and that’s our mission.”