Away games to dominate the beginning of 2019
The brand management team at the Blue Bulls rarely disappoint. Fans never could get used to seeing the team turn out in their bright yellow and blue away kit which, apparently, is a “tribute” to fellow Pretoria sports club Mamelodi Sundowns after they conquered the African Champions League in 2015/2016. Previous seasons have brought various versions of away kits. In 2017: dark/navy blue. 2016: black with flames. 2015: white. 2014: camouflage(like Napoli S.S.C). 2013: pink. You see the pattern (wink, wink). Fans were praying that the Bulls would play more like former superstar Percy Tau (a.k.a The Lion of Pretoria). The Bulls have rarely won in the yellow and blue kit thus it would be no surprise to find many supporters thinking “good riddance”.
We can get rid of the away kit annually but we can never change the rules of the game: until the end of eternity there will be away games on the opposite side of the world. This is SupeRugby. The home kit will be darker than the usual blue in 2019. This year the away kit will be green fading into white.
Which brings us to the topic of this piece: the 2019 schedule. Three of our first five fixtures are away in Argentina, Ellis Park and in Durban. The difference between this and last season is that the opposition is mostly South African as we face The Sharks twice in the space of twenty one days and the Lions down the road.
The Bulls’ prospects against the Sharks, if we analyse previous results, are pretty good as the Bulls beat them 39-33 at Loftus and 40-10 in Kwa-Zulu Natal. A repeat of the same would be an enormous boost and a mental placebo for contests against other local rivals. The Bulls thrive in these contests during recent seasons, except against the Lions.
The Lions are three time losing finalists so a Bulls win is unlikely but it is still a “Jukskei Derby”. Which means that anything can happen. They did win 38-12 and 49-35 en route to the final last season and are likely to destroy the Bulls again. Too much pedigree and ruthlessness will pierce through the Bulls’ defence with ease. South Africas finest team should mop the floor with us if we are being realistic. Their squad is brimming with talent, from breakthrough player of the year 2018 Aphiwe Dyantyi to Malcolm Marx, one of the worlds best hookers, to the lethal, short, hard ground swallowing-machine Kwagga Smith as flanker.
And lastly, the over-achieving Jaguares. 2018 was their best season in SupeRugby where they finished second in the South African Conference and thus made the play-offs. One would expect the newest team in the competition to be the bullied but quite the opposite has happened. Away in Argentina last season the Bulls lost 54-24, shockingly. The reverse fixture was a fortunate 43-34 Bulls win in Pretoria. The Jaguares shouldn’t be competition for the Bulls as the newest franchise in SupeRugby, they should be whipping boys like the Cheetahs and the Western Force used to be (despite having the support of the entire South American continent behind them). Their weakness will be at fly-half as Nicolas Sanchez has transferred to Stade Francais. It will still be the beginning of the season and the new fly-half will need time to settle in, the incumbents(Domingo Miotti, Iglesias and Bonilla) competing to fill the no.10 jersey. The match will be a fight. Passion is always in abundance in Argentina.
The Bulls ineptitude on the road means we make up for it in spirit at Loftus Versfeld. Handre Pollard will kick the season off at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday the 16th of February against the Stormers where the bottom teams of last seasons conference battle it out. Last seasons logic(and log) dictates that the Stormers have a superior defensive record but a lot has changed over the off-season.
It’s the Stormers so there should definitely be a vibrant crowd at Loftus and we as a franchise have evolved. With a new manager in Pote Human, new marquee signings (like Schalk Brits, Vermeulen and Hendricks) and youth players (Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier) competing for places it is hard to say what will happen. But it will be positive.