Bulls must overcome 'curse of week 2'
The Vodacom Bulls face their toughest test of character all season as they prepare to line up against the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday.
Knowing the race with the Stormers for the top position in the South African conference is still neck and neck, the Bulls not only have to overcome the “curse of week two” but also will have to do so without some of their top players.
Already they have lost flanker Jacques Potgieter to a knee injury, ruling him out for between six and eight weeks, while Frik Kirsten has broken his hand.
Add to this Dean Greyling being back in South Africa for the birth of his child, and now the injury to Wynand Olivier, and it is clear to see how stretched the Bulls will be this week.
Olivier injured his ribs in the win over the Melbourne Rebels and is likely to miss Friday’s match as well. He will in all likelihood be replaced by either Francois Venter or Johann Sadie, with JJ Engelbrecht likely to keep his place on the outside.
But with the season starting to get to its business end, the Bulls know how important it is to not take their foot off the throttle, even though they have done a lot better than many would have said they would.
On the second week of tour, the traditional cursed week, this is where it comes down to character.
The Bulls know that injuries may be one thing, but they have traditionally not performed on the second week of any tour for a long time, with the mental baggage that comes with touring halfway across the world playing a major factor in their games in week two of the tour.
Last year they opened their tour with a wonderful win over the Hurricanes in Wellington, but then slumped to a poor 27-0 loss against the Crusaders with Sonny Bill Williams running riot.
In 2010 they opened their tour with a win over the Western Force, then slumped to a 32-17 loss to the Auckland Blues in week two, ditto with 2009 going down 36-12 to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
In 2008 it was 43-27 to the Chiefs in week two of the tour.
Perhaps the one positive that comes from these stats is that the last time they won in week two of a tour was in 2007, when they beat the Waratahs in Sydney, their same opposition this week.
Whether or not that is a stretch only time will tell, but the Bulls will at least have the advantage of having Deon Stegmann back in action this week to help with their foraging tasks on the ground.
Ultimately it will be the players on the field who will decide whether or not the "curse of week two" is a factor or not.
Injuries aside, the pressure is on for the young Bulls squad, and only they can answer with their play against a struggling Waratahs side in Sydney