Pretoria - The Vodacom Blue Bulls will welcome back Springbok wing Bjorn Basson this week as they prepare for one of their toughest assignments of the year – facing the Sharks in Absa Currie Cup action in Durban on Friday night.
According to the supersport.com website, Basson returned from injury last week but then a family bereavement kept him out of the Bulls team last weekend, and may well have also cost him his Bok place in the Castle Rugby Championship squad as well.
Still, the winger will make a welcome return to the team as they face a tough assignment, knowing they need to win to stay in with a chance of the playoffs, as well as staying out of the bottom spot of the Currie Cup log.
Basson is a quality finisher and will provide some welcome relief to the Bulls, who will be without Jacques Potgieter because of his call-up to the national squad, but at least have the luxury of keeping Jano Vermaak at scrumhalf this week.
The return will also add to the much-needed experience, although a player like Sampie Mastriet will feel unlucky to miss out after his performance in the 34-30 victory over Free State this past weekend.
Basson aside, CJ Stander is set to come back into the starting line-up in Potgieter’s place, while on the bench it seems to be a straight choice between Grant Hattingh and Warwick Tecklenburg, both of whom have struggled with form this season.
There are some injury worries as flyhalf Louis Fouche is struggling with an AC Joint strain and fullback Jurgen Visser took a knock to the knee, but team doctor Org Strauss doesn’t seem overly concerned with either of them and reckons they should be back in action by the weekend.
There is always former Stormer Lionel Cronje on standbye should either not make it through a fitness test, while further good news is that hooker Chiliboy Ralepeller is likely to return to action next week if all goes to plan.
The Bulls know they have to keep on winning as while they leapfrogged Free State on the weekend, they are still only one point ahead of them, and could well find themselves back on the bottom if they can’t pull off a victory away from home this weekend.
Coach Pine Pienaar was happy with their victory over the Cheetahs, especially as it relieves a bit of pressure on him and the side, called on the team to keep their focus and take a step up this coming week.
“It was a good win, but there were a lot of things we could have done better, and that is what we will have to look for. There are no easy games, so one week you can get a win, and the next week lose badly. It’s important that we get focus now as a team. It is definitely a well-done on the win and good for the confidence of the players. But we will definitely need to do more this week against the Sharks,” Pienaar said.
However, should they get the win in Durban then they will be in with a good shot for a playoff place, and know that if they do arrive in the playoffs with momentum, anything is possible.
“If you want to win the Currie Cup you have to get into that semifinal, and it doesn’t matter where you play – away or home,” Pienaar added. “It’s great to win against Cheetahs but we have three games left, as do the sides above you.
“You are going to play against the sides above you and make improvements as a side, otherwise you are not going to end in that top four. The pressure is back on v Sharks and we have to be spot on there.
“We have to improve, that’s the position everyone is in now and it’s all to play for.”