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From Heroes to Zeros in Seconds

The 2017 Super Rugby season was billed to be a turnaround season for the South African franchises, in particular the Vodacom Bulls after their impressive preseason they had and also a clean bill of health on all their star performers for the first time before a season got underway in a very long time.

Their preseason warm up games also went according to plan when they registered big wins against 2016 Super Rugby finalists, the Emirates Lions in Harare as well as a 27-8 win over the Chiefs in Brisbane, a match that was dedicated to the memory of former Bulls & Springbok Captain Joost van der Westhuizen, who sadly passed on that week.

All was said and done and it was time to put their money where their mouths were in the opening round of the 2017 Super Rugby season in a match against long-time rivals the DHL Stormers at Newlands in Cape Town.

It was a touchy affair for the first 14 minutes and then this happened…

After all the hype that was created around South Africa’s most successful Super Rugby franchise ahead of this fixture and season, this moment when Bulls winger Travis Ismaiel broke was vital for the men from Pretoria and their season ahead.

It all however went pear shaped in seconds due to the lack of support he had when needed, an old South African rugby trait we might add, especially at that moment in a game where neither team wanted to show their cards, yet was forced to with a massive opportunity like this.

The fast thinking of the Stormers to take the quick penalty – after Rudi Paige was forced to cling on to the ball due to no support – at a time when the Bulls were vulnerable at their worst, paid off with a massive score from former Bulls scrumhalf and fullback, Jano Vermaak and SP Marais, the latter scoring one of his best tries to date.

This moment in the game we believe was a bigger mental blow to this young Bulls team than most would admit to.

As a passionate lover of the game, I have learnt to look at things in a way different angle than most conventional supporters would normally do and this moment really defined the rest of their season for me – one that they are keen to forget sooner than later.

One term that often gets used in rugby and sometimes sport in general is, “the bounce of the ball”. This season was one of those that did not bounce well for the men in Pretoria but with the announcement of former All Black Coach, John Mitchell, as the new Executive of Rugby at Loftus you can bet things will be bouncing in a different way come Super Rugby 2018!

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