July 28 2017 – THE Bulls are the most successful South African team in Super Rugby history, which is hard to believe based on the evidence this season.
The champions in 2007, 2009 and 2010 were an absolute shambles in 2016, winning just four matches all year.
Nollis Marais, a Bulls man through-and-through, had good intentions and always seemed a likeable character, but the results he dished up at Loftus this year were never going to be acceptable.
The Bulls were looking to change their identity and become a more expansive side under Marais, but by the end they had lost their way completely with defeats against the Kings and Sunwolves standing out in what was a dismal campaign.
Now, it is time to plot the way forward, and the man that the Bulls have turned to is former Chiefs, Western Force, Lions and All Black coach, John Mitchell.
A big character in the game, there is no doubt the 53-year-old has the experience and the pedigree.
He knows southern hemisphere rugby better than most and he knows what it takes to perform at the highest level.
Mitchell is just settling into his new role as Director of Rugby by contributing to the Blue Bulls Currie Cup team as an attack coach, but the preparation for Super Rugby 2018 has started already.
With numbers at Loftus dwindling badly this year, the franchise needs to get back to winning ways as a matter of urgency.
“There is a lot of expectation, but there is pressure wherever you go. The pressure here will be no different to wherever I’ve been,” Mitchell told Sport24 on Thursday.
“Pressure is pressure … some people handle it and some people don’t. It’s all about controlling the controllables and that’s all I’ll be focusing on.”
Mitchell is currently putting in the ground work that he hopes will be the foundation of a successful Bulls era, but he warns that it “won’t happen overnight”.
“It’s about what we do in terms of developing our depth and making sure that we’ve always got players pushing through with the right mentality, approach and core skills under pressure,” he explained.
“My plans around the mentality and approach are very clear and if we can get the foundations in now then we’re going to be a lot further ahead when we come into (Super Rugby) pre-season.
“We’re in a competition now where if you look at the New Zealand sides since 2014, they’ve had close to a 94% winning rate against Australian and South African teams and that’s jumped up about 40%.
“The competition is quite different now to when the Bulls had a dynasty previously. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but anything is possible. Things won’t happen overnight, but it’s also important to grab belief along the way and you can only do that through winning.”
Mitchell pointed to the fact that the famous Bulls team of 2007-2010 was made up of experienced campaigners, while this young crop still has a long way to go.
The end goal is obviously to become a force in Super Rugby once more, but the short-term aim is simply to start winning rugby matches.
“It’s about building our confidence and winning support in the short-term. It’s two-fold … looking after short-term and dealing with the long-term future as well. I’ve got an eye on both,” Mitchell said.
“We’ve got the talent here. We’re an outstanding club that has got history. But we will have to ride our development as well and we’ll have to accept that we’re not as experienced as that previous dynasty.
“People learn a lot from adversity, because if you don’t then you’re not going to change. We’ll be a lot stronger mentally going into next year’s campaign.” – News 24