Bulls don't have 'foreign fears'
SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: The Bulls are looking to ‘set the record straight’ when they host the Reds in a Round Nine encounter in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Bulls appear all-conquering when facing South African opposition, but have yet to beat teams from outside the Republic this year.
Even worse, they have not won in New Zealand since 2013 and last won in Australia in 2016.
The Bulls got their season off to a flying start with a 40-3 demolition of the Stormers and have also smashed the Lions (30-12), while beating the Sharks home (37-14) and away (19-16).
However, they have lost twice to the Jaguares (12-27 in Buenos Aires and 20-22 in Pretoria), while being hammered 56-20 by the Chiefs in Pretoria.
It was last week’s ill-disciplined performance against the Jaguares that rankled most with the Loftus Versfeld fans.
Seasoned centre Burger Odendaal admitted the players were “down in the dumps” and it will be tough getting over that game.
However, they are not about to hit the panic button and they certainly don’t have a mental block against foreign teams.
“We spoke at the beginning of the season and I think it was Polly [flyhalf Handre Pollard] who said that in four years he hasn’t won a game overseas,” Odendaal.
“So it really is something we are working on.
“It is coincidental that we haven’t won against an overseas side at the moment, but the game against the Chiefs was really an off day for us,” he added.
“The other two games we lost, I think we still had a chance to win the games.
“I don’t think we had a mental block against overseas teams, but certain things cost us in each game.”
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He admitted the all-South African derbies feel “a lot more personal”.
“The guys play against [direct] opponents and fight for a Springbok place,” he said, adding: “It can’t just be like that when you face the players from your country.
“You need to have that same mentality against a player from Australia, New Zealand or Argentina, because at the end of the day the more you do that, the bigger the competition will be and it will bring the best out of the players.”
Odendaal said they will have to lift their intensity against a “very tough” Reds team this coming Saturday.
“They haven’t started too well,” he said of a Reds team that lost their first three matches.
“They are looking better at this stage,” he said of the Brisbane-based franchise, who have won three of their last four encounters.
“It’s going to be very physical again. They have a couple of big carriers, especially the likes of Samu Kerevi. He will keep us busy the whole 80.
“If we’re not up for it, we’re going to get a hiding again, so hopefully the boys will be up for it and work for us to be better.”
Discipline is the other key focus for the Bulls this week, given the two yellow cards that cost them dearly against the Jaguares last week.
“I think the big thing that cost us was our discipline.
“We pride ourselves on that and try and limit ourselves to less than 10 penalties against us in a game – I think we got nine [against the Jaguares] – but the two yellow cards cost us.
“It was a pressure point for us and hopefully, in the future, we won’t crack and not get yellow cards again.
“At the end, just try to finish off the game. I think we had a mentality to defend the game at the end, where I think we should still be attacking the opposition.”