Pu­mas, Bulls bat­tle for the spoils and a cat-fight re­sult

The Mercury - - SPORT - Vata Ngob­eni

TO THE vic­tors will go the spoils at Lof­tus tonight when the Blue Bulls host the Pu­mas in what has been dubbed a Cur­rie Cup quar­ter-fi­nal.

Typ­i­cal of an “all-or-noth­ing” af­fair, the team that emerges vic­to­ri­ous will not only savour the sweet taste of vic­tory, but also have one foot in the door of the semi-fi­nals as they wait/hope that the third placed Free State Chee­tahs de­liver a fa­tal blow to the Golden Li­ons in their “quar­ter-fi­nal” en­counter at El­lis Park to­mor­row.

While the Pu­mas only stand a math­e­mat­i­cal chance of reach­ing the play-offs, the Bulls will be chomp­ing at the bit in the hope that they live to play an­other week in the old­est do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion in world rugby.

The Bulls’ chances are more re­al­is­tic than the Pu­mas’ in that John Mitchell’s men only need to guar­an­tee them­selves a bonus-point win and pray that the rugby gods smile down on them by hand­ing the Chee­tahs vic­tory over a Li­ons team that are a mere three points ahead of them on the log.

There is also the dark re­al­i­sa­tion that the Pu­mas man­aged to man-han­dle the Bulls in their 51-15 win in the first round of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Even though the Bulls have im­proved vastly from that fate­ful day, they will be con­fronted by ghosts from their most re­cent past while try­ing to shine a light on a fu­ture that ends with a tro­phy they last won eight years ago.

Mitchell isn’t too both­ered by the sense of ex­pec­ta­tion from the Lof­tus faith­ful since he took over seven weeks ago.

He is fo­cused on see­ing greater im­prove­ment among his play­ers as in­di­vid­u­als and as a team.

That is not to say that the for­mer All Blacks coach cares lit­tle for mak­ing the play-offs, but what is of para­mount con­cern is putting a foun­da­tion in place that will lead to the restora­tion of the Bulls’ dom­i­nance in do­mes­tic and Su­per Rugby in the fu­ture.

“It is really im­por­tant not to get caught up in that be­cause ul­ti­mately we know where we are at and what we’ve got to do,” said Mitchell.

“We un­der­stand our lim­i­ta­tions. We clearly have got bet­ter and we’ll find out whether it is good enough to be the best in this com­pe­ti­tion.

“It is ex­cit­ing, we are kind of in a quar­ter-fi­nal so that is also a dif­fer­ent kind of bench­mark and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how we man­age and han­dle that as well.

“It has been a tough year for the Bulls and for the guys, all I fo­cus on is them in­di­vid­u­ally and us col­lec­tively im­prov­ing.

“We’ve got to de­serve it and we are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion and it re­mains to be seen whether we do de­serve within this com­pe­ti­tion. But the guys are hun­gry and they are mo­ti­vated to get bet­ter.”


Juan Mar­tin del Potro keeps his eye on the prize as the dark horse at the Shang­hai Mas­ters after beat­ing Ger­many’s Alexan­der Zverev in the third round at Qizhong For­est Sports City Ten­nis Cen­ter.

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