Bulls finding their feet
Pine Pienaar (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - After a slow start to the season, Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar believes his team is finding consistency as it approaches the business end of the Currie Cup competition.
The Bulls are a lowly sixth on the log and will look to lift themselves into semi-final contention when they face the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
"Things are starting to come together for us now, and it's just coming down to execution," Pienaar said.
"Last year this time, we had lost four games at this stage as well, so I know there are a bunch of people saying that we are losing our winning culture."
The side was not where it wanted to be, but the "winning culture" was as present as always.
"There is total commitment from the players and we're not losing our focus on what we want to do."
Pienaar was confident ahead of this weekend's clash, with the Bulls having secured a 33-30 win over the Cheetahs in the first round of the competition.
However, they expected a stronger challenge from their hosts.
Having worked on rectifying errors made in the 39-27 loss to the Sharks last week, Pienaar said the Bulls had shifted their focus to a Cheetahs side who were fourth in the standings and fresh off a 64-17 thumping of the Leopards.
"We made a few mistakes against the Sharks but we're more concerned about our preparations for this week," Pienaar said.
"Their side has changed as well. They've got Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss and Ashley Johnson, and those players did not play against us here [at Loftus]."
These three players brought their side momentum as the main ball carriers.
"They will be a different side, definitely, and it's always difficult in Bloemfontein," Pienaar said.
Title holders the Sharks were not taking anything for granted ahead of their encounter with a struggling Pumas outfit in Durban on Saturday.
Sharks coach John Plumtree said they were wary of the visitors after holding them off for a narrow 23-22 win in the first round.
"It's going to be a tough game," Plumtree said.
"The Pumas haven't won a game this year yet, but they've been so impressive in lots of work that they've been doing.
"They possibly should have beaten us in Nelspruit and they were only seven points behind the Lions with time up on the clock [last week]."
Western Province, second in the standings, will go in search of their fourth straight win against the Leopards in Cape Town.
Province were five points behind log leaders the Lions heading into this weekend's ninth round of matches. The newly promoted Leopards, with only one win from eight matches, were last in the standings and headed for a relegation battle.