Gone is the talk of a Super Rugby play-off berth after a disastrous tour abroad but there will still be pressure on the Bulls to bring down the curtain on their season with their heads held high.
While the Bulls will be the first to admit that they were their own worst enemy on tour where they lost all four of their games against the Blues, Chiefs, Brumbies and Rebels, they will look back on their last game against the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday and feel that any chance of them making the play-offs was taken away by poor officiating.
This was when a legitimate try by Burger Odendaal was denied by television match official Ian Smith but the question remains as to whether the Bulls would have sneaked in through the back door even with a win over the Rebels.
In reality, the Bulls were long broken and their play-off ambitions dashed by their inability to close out games they dominated and also their inability to win away from South Africa, an unenviable record they have now stretched to 11 games without a win overseas and three years without a win in Australia.
It is highly improbable that the Bulls would have pulled a rabbit out of the hat stunt to make the play-offs as their performances in the past month were not worthy of a team that should be playing in the knockout stage of the competition against teams that have consistently performed at their optimum this year.
What faces the Bulls in their final outing for the season is a Cheetahs team going through a painful metamorphosis after having changed coaches from Naka Drotske to Franco Smith and they will come to Loftus Versfeld over the weekend with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The Bulls, on the other hand, are under severe pressure to arrest a four-match losing streak, restore their dignity and fend off suggestions that Friday’s board of directors meeting with their coach Frans Ludeke will end with blood on the floor.
There has been talk in the corridors at Loftus that change is coming and that could begin at the end of the Currie Cup season in October where there might be significant changes within the coaching staff.
Chief among these could see the end of Ludeke’s eight-year tenure at the helm of the Bulls.
While Ludeke is of the belief that his job is safe, he has taken responsibility for the team’s failure to qualify for the play-offs even with one of the most talented and experienced line-ups in the competition.
Ludeke has called for patience and says that it takes time to build a championship winning outfit and is confident that they are moving in the right direction.
“We accept that it is not good enough, but we definitely feel like we have the talent. There are no excuses.
“What I’ve learnt from my experiences in the competition is that it takes time to build that belief and it doesn’t happen overnight. We really feel like we have the right players here and we are moving in the right direction.
“I know that it didn’t always seem that way when we were on tour but we made some changes on our attack and our mindset there and it paid off for us in some crucial games like against the Crusaders and Sharks,” Ludeke said.
Even though Ludeke hasn’t brought silverware to Loftus in five years since winning his second Super Rugby title in 2010, he remains optimistic that it is only a matter of time before the Bulls return back to the summit of southern hemisphere’s elite competition.
“We are positive and we would like to ask the people to be patient. We will break through, it didn’t happen now and it is bitterly disappointing. We feel exactly the same as our fans and we know that it is not good enough.
“We will be back, I know there is a lot of character in the side with strong leaders, a great bunch of players and coaching staff. It is only a matter of time,” the coach insisted.