The next four matches are key to playoff hopes for the Vodacom Bulls, who can put their feet up this week as they enjoy their first bye of the season but they will know that they face a crucial run of matches when they return to action.
They currently sit 4th in what is a tight South African Conference and as they will be awarded four points this weekend there is every chance they could move up to 3rd without kicking a ball, as the Cheetahs and Stormers take each other on in Bloemfontein.
They will have been disappointed having won just one of their four tour matches especially given how impressive they were in downing the Blues in Auckland. Defeat to the Crusaders was no disgrace but the Bulls would have expected to come away from either Brisbane or Canberra with a win. They so nearly achieved at least a draw against the Brumbies with a controversial last minute penalty seeing the home team over the line. Perhaps more than the penalty itself the Bulls decision to retrieve the kickoff and work their way up field to try and claim the win will be debated. On the one hand a draw on the road would have been an acceptable result, but on the other the team showed they were not prepared to settle for a stalemate and backed themselves to grab what would have been a stunning come from behind victory.
The Next 4 Matches
The season resumes next week with the Cheetahs at home. Bulls fans would have earmarked this as an almost certain victory at the start of the season but the Cheetahs have won four matches on the trot heading into this weekend’s game against the Stormers. That being said Loftus remains a fortress and a win and at least a four point haul against the Cheetahs is a must.
Then it’s onto the Kings in Port Elizabeth with the home team returning from their tour. The Kings have surprised most pundits this season but they rely heavily on their defense and the Bulls should be able to get on top and stay there. Five points is a nonnegotiable.
The Waratahs in Pretoria is next and the Bulls will likely start solid favourites to win this one. The Waratahs are improving but have yet to play many of the big guns and while four points would perhaps be an acceptable haul this match should be targeted as a five pointer.
Then it’s the Hurricanes at Loftus and while they have the squad to give the Bulls problems, the home side will be around six point favourites for the match and would expect to win. The Hurricanes style of play should ensure an open game and this will hopefully mean that the Bulls get among the tries as they look to bag another bonus point victory. A win with or without a bonus point would be an acceptable outcome.
The Bulls have themselves well placed although perhaps a couple of points shy of where they would like to have been. They play four matches before their next bye, three of which are at home and the other against newcomers the Kings. Victories in all four matches are a must in order to set themselves up for a playoff run and a haul of 18-19 points should be the target.
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