The Bulls have the tal­ent to be cham­pi­ons again, but do they be­lieve it?

Saturday Star - - SPORT - VATA NGOB­ENI

IF THERE is a Su­per Rugby team in South Africa that can repli­cate the Lions’ charge from last year and go all the way and win the com­pe­ti­tion then it will have to be the Bulls.

They not only have the his­tory of be­ing the only South African team to have won the com­pe­ti­tion since the game turned pro­fes­sional, win­ning three ti­tles in to­tal but they pos­sess one of the most tal- ented and youngest squad across all con­fer­ences.

Yes the Lions stand a good chance of pro­gress­ing far again in this year’s cam­paign, es­pe­cially play­ing against the weaker Aus­tralian con­fer­ence and they have shown that they might have no equal in South Africa. But they still have to make the leap into Su­per Rugby great­ness and win the tour­na­ment.

The Lions re­main con­tenders and strong con­tenders at that but the jury is not yet out on their readi­ness to as­cend to the main chair at Su­per Rugby’s top ta­ble.

The Sharks have been peren­nial brides­maids over the decades, com­ing close on two oc­ca­sions to win­ning it but never get­ting over the line.

You see, to win Su­per Rugby takes more than just a squad of su­per ath­letes and a rea­son­ably good game-plan; it also re­quires a lot of men­tal strength and be­lief that bor­ders on ar­ro­gance.

The Bulls teams of 2007, 2009 and 2010 had that men­tal strength and be­lief in buck­et­loads and they had col­lec­tively bought into the goal of be­ing the best team in the world.

Ob­vi­ously they had some world class play­ers in their ranks like Gurthro Steenkamp, Chili­boy Rale­pelle, Gary Botha, Vic­tor Mat­field, Bakkies Botha, Danie Ros­souw, Wikus van Heer­den, Fourie du Preez, Morné Steyn, Bryan Ha­bana, Akona Ndun­gane, Zane Kirch­ner and Fran­cois Hougaard to guide them along the way to Su­per Rugby im­mor­tal­ity.

The cur­rent Bulls team holds sim­i­lar tal­ent but with far less ex­pe­ri­ence than the above men­tioned play­ers when they ruled Su­per Rugby with fear and no team wanted to face them at Lof­tus Vers­feld.

Bulls coach Nol­lis Marais has as­sem­bled a young but very tal­ented out­fit with many of his play­ers cer­tain to be­come Spring­boks in the not-tood­is­tant fu­ture while the likes of Adri­aan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Lood de Jager, Rudi Paige, Piet van Zyl, Han­dré Pol­lard, Jan Ser­fontein, Jesse Kriel and Jamba Ulengo come with a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing played at the high­est level.

What this cur­rent Bulls side lacks is be­lief – that be­lief that they will not lose at Lof­tus, but more than any­thing that they will not lose to any team in the com­pe­ti­tion re­gard­less of where and when they play.

Af­ter a bad start to the sea­son with the losses against the Storm­ers and Cheetahs, the Bulls have not been as bullish as dur­ing the pre-sea­son where the talk was about reach­ing the play-offs and chal­leng­ing for top hon­ours. All you hear these days is talk of res­cu­ing their sea­son while on tour in New Zealand and Tokyo. There is noth­ing to res­cue; in­stead there is a dream to chase.

The Bulls have to chase their dream of be­ing the last team stand­ing but that will come with them elim­i­nat­ing the plethora of er­rors that saw them give away the games against the Storm­ers and Cheetahs in the first half.

But most im­por­tantly it will come down to them play­ing to their full po­ten­tial of the un­matched tal­ent that runs through their squad and with that they must also have the be­lief and back it up with per­for­mances on the field, if they are to rule Su­per Rugby in the same man­ner in which Mat­field’s men did.

The Bulls can be cham­pi­ons again but the ques­tion beck­ons: Do they be­lieve it?

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