Pretoria team need to turn their season around quickly
Springbok and Bulls flyhalf Handré Pollard has made no secret of how desperate his side will be in beating the Sharks and getting back to winning ways at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Bulls are coming off two consecutive defeats at the hands of the Highlanders at home, followed by a loss against the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend.
It was the defeat against the old foe at Newlands that sunk the Bulls to the bottom of the South African conference and placed them in a rather difficult situation in their race for play-offs spots.
At the same time, though, Pollard believes the Sharks are equally as desperate to get some winning consistency in their campaign after their convincing win against the Highlanders.
Even though the Bulls had beaten the Sharks in Durban three weeks ago, Pollard is not oblivious to the fact that the same Sharks team are riding the crest of the wave and will also want to exert revenge for that 40-10 loss at home.
“They are going to be a different side to the side we played down there,” he said. “They are coming up here with a lot of confidence, not that our confidence is broken but we are coming off two losses. I think they will be desperate to get one back at us It is going to be a great game, they are a quality side and they showed it this weekend against the Highlanders side,” said Pollard.
His sentiments on the desperation of the Bulls also stems from them trying to squeeze points out of teams that are in their conference in the Sharks and Jaguares in Buenos Aires with the incumbent Bok pivot adamant that this is probably the most important two weeks in the team’s campaign this year.
Over and above doing the double over the Sharks, it will be critical for the Bulls to do one over the high-flying Jaguares, who have just returned home from their tour Down Under unbeaten and are firmly in play-off contention as the second-best team in the South African conference.
“To win your conference games is massive and that’s why we are disappointed with this weekend we have another two weeks of conference battles ahead.
“So for us to get wins in the next two weeks is very important, just to get ourselves into second or third place in the conference you don’t want to be going into the last four games needing to win all of them to make the play-offs,” Pollard said.
But the seriousness in Pollard’s voice about what exactly it is that the Bulls need to do to remain relevant in Super Rugby is with the same authority and confidence that he has played his game this year, which has left little doubt that he is arguably the country’s premier No 10.
Pollard says he is still far from the devastating form that made him the talk of world rugby four years ago but admits to being at his most content.
“On a personal note, I feel consistent and I feel that is a big part of a team to have a consistent flyhalf,” he said. “Just to be on the field is a blessing and I’m enjoying every moment of it injury free, and really just enjoying myself. I’m enjoying it under Mitch and with the guys really building something here, it is not always going our way but we still believe in the process.”
While Pollard may be rekindling “that” form, he is also using the emergence of Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse and the presence of Lions pivot Elton Jantjies as a source of motivation to fulfilling the promise of being the best flyhalf in the world.
“He (Willemse) is a quality young player and he has so much X-factor and flair it is really hard to contain him when you give him time and space on the ball,” said Pollard.
“It is good, healthy competition and we’ve had it in the past with Morné Steyn and Patrick Lambie when they were still here, and we enjoyed it.”
In the end, Pollard wants to help bring back the glory days when his team ruled Super Rugby, and that will, hopefully, start with a domineering performance against the Sharks at Loftus.
“I won’t say it is consistency, we are right there, we are just not getting the results. So we are not losing any faith,” he said.