Bulls look to close the gap
Pine Pienaar (Gallo Images)
Pretoria - The Blue Bulls will be looking to close the gap between themselves and the Currie Cup front-runners when they take on log-leaders Western Province at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The hosts proved last weekend against the Free State Cheetahs that they could up the ante against a quality side when they beat the visitors 26-10.
Ahead of that match Bulls coach Pine Pienaar said the Bloemfontein side would be their biggest challenge yet in the competition.
With his charges passing the test unscathed, they now go head-to-head with Western Province, the only unbeaten side in the competition.
Province have arguably the most dangerous backline in the Currie Cup with strike runners like Cheslin Kolbe, Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh posing a constant threat on attack.
"They have an exceptional backline and they have guys that can create something out of nothing," Pienaar said.
"They have a lot of experience in the backs and players with a lot of X-factor.
"So if we give them a bit of space, and a bit of broken field they will punish you, they have the ability to do that and they have shown that up to now."
The north-south derby traditionally evokes the deepest of emotions from supporters and often comes down to a battle of attrition.
Bulls captain Jono Ross said while they were conscious of the age-old rivalry between the two sides, the team had to approach each game with the same intent.
"Every week we have to get ourselves up, there is no easy game in this Currie Cup," Ross said.
"We understand the history that's gone before us and this has been a massive derby."
In their first round match in Cape Town the sides played to a 24-24 draw, but both teams have made improvements since the opening weekend of the competition.
Province is fresh off a confidence-boosting victory over the Sharks in their top-of-the-log clash at Newlands.
The Capetonians may be leading the log, but as the strength-against-strength format has proven, changes on the points table is rather like the weather.
Meanwhile, the Bulls announced on Friday that centre Ulrich Beyers failed a late fitness test and would be replaced by Waylon Murray in the starting line-up.
Murray has shown great form when he has come off the bench and even in his start against the Cheetahs last week.
His original place on the bench will be filled by the talented mid-fielder, William Small-Smith.
Kick-off is at 17:05.
15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet
, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Akona Ndungane, 10 Handré Pollard,
9 Rudy Paige
, 8 Jono Ross
(captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan
Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh
, 4 Paul Willemse
, 3 Frik Kirsten
Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
, 17 Dean Greyling
, 18 David Bullbring
, 19 Jacques
Engelbrecht, 20 21 Lohan Jacobs, 22 Waylon Murray
, 23 Clayton
15. Gio Aplon, 14.
Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Damian de Allende, 11.
Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Kurt Coleman, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Nizaam Carr, 7.
, 6. Rynhardt Elstadt 5. De Kock Steenkamp (captain), 4.
Taz Fuzani, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff
16. Michael Willemse, 17. Brok Harris
, 18. Gerbrandt Grobler, 19. Rohan
Kitshoff, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Gary van Aswegen, 22. Michael van der Spuy