FS don't fear Bulls jumpers
PW van Vuuren (Gallo Images)
Bloemfontein - Free State are preparing as if the Blue Bulls' lineout play will still be of "A-team" standard in the absence of a number of Springbok stars.
Big names like Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Flip van der Merwe, Danie Rossouw and Pierre Spies may not appear in the Bulls' 22-man squad, but their understudies are viewed as lineout jumpers of similar standard.
Bulls No 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, flank Dewald Potgieter and locks Juandré Kruger and Fudge Mabeta, are all lineout forwards that won't let down a Super Rugby side.
Experience therefore counted for a lot when Free State coach Naka Drotské decided on his hooker for Saturday's Currie Cup match at Lotus Versfeld.
PW van Vuuren, who already made his Currie Cup debut for Free State in 2008, has been picked at hooker ahead of Baby Bok Michael van Vuuren.
PW represented the South African Schools team in 2006, then wore the No 2 jersey of the national under-19 team a year later and in 2008 represented the Baby Boks in Wales.
PW grabbed his Currie Cup chance against Griquas last year and often shone for the Griffons as a loan player, after which a neck operation sidelined him for five months.
He is looking hungry and motivated to grab his opportunity in the absence of Adriaan Strauss.
"We certainly won't underestimate the Bulls in the lineouts, but they also don't intimidate us," said PW.
"They are all players who we have played alongside or against earlier in our careers ... so they certainly won't intimidate us. I think it helps us that Victor and the other Boks aren't playing."
Saturday's duel with experienced Bok Gary Botha will be the biggest test of PW's career.
Botha likes to physically impose himself on opponents and won't show his younger adversary any mercy. However, if PW stands his ground physically, can find his jumpers with this throws in the lineouts and performs well in the loose, it may cause the Blue Bulls serious headaches.
"I'm not a player who focuses on my opponent. I prefer to focus on what I need to do and what's in the best interests of the team. I have waited a long time for this opportunity - about five years. I'm very excited about my inclusion in the starting line-up."
Free State also have to manage without leading lineout forwards Wilhelm Steenkamp (lock) and Juan Smith (flank).
However, locks Francois Uys and Waltie Vermeulen, as well as flank Lappies Labuschagné, offer them enough options in that department.Teams:Blue Bulls:
15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Stephan Dippenaar, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Gerhard van den Heever, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Dustin Jinka, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Derick Kuün, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Fudge Mabeta, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Gary Botha (captain), 1 Corné Fourie
Substitutes: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Okkie Kruger, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Francois VenterFree State Cheetahs:
15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan 'True Blue' Smit, 13 Corné Uys, 12 Andries Strauss (capt), 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Lappies Labuschagné, 6 Johan Wessels, 5 Waltie Vermeulen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 PW van Vuuren, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Substitutes: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Izak van der Westhuizen, 19 Pieter Myburgh, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Philip Burger.