Bulls overcome bout of flu
Johannesburg - After a week of a freak bout of flu that struck down almost the entire Blue Bulls team, the Pretoria-based side will have to get out of bed for a battle against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The side was severely disrupted this week with 11 players missing training which effectively left the team unable to train for most of the build-up to the weekend.
The team only had one session before the match which left them uncharacteristically unprepared for the match.
The flu had already taken its toll with Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar having to replace Frik Kirsten and Jan Serfontein with Rossouw de Klerk and Ulrich Beyers respectively.
Pienaar said on Friday that he was hopeful that the players would be 100 percent by Saturday.
However, there will be little sympathy for the young Bulls side, especially after last weekend’s loss to the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Despite losing most of their star players to the Springbok cause in the Rugby Championship they have won their opening two matches of this year’s competition.
An already depleted Sharks side was further unsettled when hooker Craig Burden was called into the Springbok camp for the national side’s Test in Argentina on Saturday.
Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter said while the flu-bug was disruptive to their preparations, they could not offer it as an excuse.
“Unfortunately we were looking forward to a great week of preparation, but we came together as a team a week before our first game against Griquas and we had a good game,” Potgieter said.
“So it will be important for us to focus on what we have to do. They are a good team and we know what to expect from them.”
While it is still early in the competition there is not much separating the sides after two rounds.
The Blue Bulls will know full well that they could not afford to let it slip against the early pace setters in Pretoria.
“They may not have the same players, but the physical onslaught from them will be the same,” he said.
“This is a very important game to get back on track and get back to the top-end of the log.”
Blue Bulls mentor Pine Pienaar this week said his young team had learnt valuable lessons from last week’s loss to the Cheetahs.
He said the team’s discipline and the number of turnovers they conceded cost them dearly against the Bloemfontein side.
Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford this week sent out a warning to the chasing pack saying the team still had a lot to improve.
"The nice thing for us is that we don't feel that we have played particularly well,” Bashford said.
"So we have some things to work on but certainly winning brings confidence to the group."
Meanwhile, Griquas will hope to record their first victory of the competition when they host the Cheetahs at Kimberley in the first match on Saturday.
Their central-union neighbours, fresh off a confidence boosting victory over the Bulls will be well aware of the challenges the Peacock Blues posed on home soil.
The Cheetahs, however, have been bolstered by the return of their flyhalf prodigy Johan Goosen following a lengthy injury layoff.
The Golden Lions will have to forget their off-field problems when they host Western Province at Ellis Park in the other Currie Cup match of the weekend.
Both sides have been buoyed by the return of key players with the Lions welcoming flyhalf sensation Elton Jantjies, while Province have been boosted by the inclusion of flanker Siya Kolisi and centre Juan de Jongh.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann said he expected the visitors to play an expansive brand of rugby after their 25-20 victory over Griquas last weekend.
"If you look at how they played against Griquas they gave the ball a lot of air and they have guys who could be dangerous in the backline," Ackermann said.
"We also want to play a good brand of rugby so I think it will be an exciting match."