Johannesburg - Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais will know all too well how true the old adage is that a week is a long time in rugby.
According to the SuperSport website, Just a week ago the Bulls coach was heading into a do-or-die Currie Cup outing against the defending champion Xerox Golden Lions team, knowing a loss at home would mean certain permutations need to be calculated before the team could think of a Currie Cup semifinal.
Now after their 31-17 win over the Lions on Friday night, Marais sits with an easier run than his rivals, knowing that if the team continue with this momentum they could well take a home semi-final, and have a decent crack at this year’s title.
All of this talk would have seemed strange a week ago, especially from a team that let in 15 tries in its first three matches, losing two of them.
But such is the nature of the competition, the Bulls now sit with three games left - against the Pumas in Nelspruit, Griquas at Loftus and Boland in Wellington, all three games they would consider themselves favourites to win and take the points from.
Of course all three these sides can cause upsets in the competition, and are known as giant-killers when they hit their stride, but the Pumas haven’t won a game yet in the competition while Griquas are considerably more dangerous in Kimberley than they are outside it.
The Bulls biggest problems therefore, are likely to be those of their own making, with injuries playing a massive part.
Just this weekend they lost Burger Odendaal to a shoulder injury and while the medical staff need to confirm the extent of the AC joint injury, the midfielder in all likelihood won’t be joining his team-mates on the bus to Nelspruit this week.
With Jan Serfontein and Dan Kriel both already ruled out it means someone like JT Jackson - the SA Under-20 midfielder – could receive a call-up for the Nelspruit game to partner Dries Swanepoel in the midfield.
Marais isn’t resting on his laurels just yet and knows there is still a lot of rugby to be played, and any let up in concentration could mean a problem for his side.
“I think the top sides will come through, the Lions are a good side and well coached. For us now, we have three games left, Pumas away, Griquas home and then Boland away. Those three matches will be tough,” Marais said.
“The Pumas have some good rugby players, so it will be a tough game with guys like Renaldo who like to go over the advantage line. But it is much better going into those three games with this win here, otherwise we would be stuck in permutations.”
Still, the coach said it was important to “defend Loftus” and to make sure they placed a marker in their season thus far.
“It was a great win, getting the four points against the Currie Cup champions - they’ve got a good side and it was important for us,” he added.
“Teams are built on certain things. If you look at the beginning of the season we had a discussion as to why the team is leaking so many tries. You can put a system in place but if the guys don’t work it means nothing.
“Last week we were getting better and this week it was much better. We stopped them a few times on the line, the guys were up for it.
“We still made mistakes, but the attitude was there. And then the scrums and lineouts were better. We attacked and made mistakes but the intent was better. There are still things we can work on.”
The Bulls will need to keep on working, but at least the road ahead doesn’t seem as daunting as for other teams in the competition.
It makes the training on Monday a little easier, even though the intensity won’t take a back seat.