Pretoria - Vodacom Blue Bulls captain Derick Kuün has challenged his team to stand up and play like true Absa Currie Cup champions when they face the Xerox Lions this weekend at Loftus Versfeld.
The Blue Bulls may be defending their title, but after losses away from home against the Pumas and Cheetahs in the last three weeks, they suddenly find themselves with their backs against the wall, knowing only a victory will be good enough against John Mitchell’s resurgent side on Saturday.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke kept faith in the team that went down to the Cheetahs, and chose not to make any changes despite a lack of finishing in these games.
But with the Bulls moving out of the top four in any competition for the first time in three years, there are genuine concerns coming from Loftus’ halls about whether this team has what it takes to step up and retain the title.
The Bulls have been hit by the loss of their Springboks, and also were hit by injury concerns of late, with talismanic fetcher Deon Stegmann again a non starter this week because of his hamstring twinge, while Fudge Mabeta (shoulder), Dewald Potgieter (knee), Frik Kirsten (chest) and Bandise Maku (shoulder) were all not considered for action.
In addition to this, even though they are within their rights to use him, the Bulls have kept by their promise to rest Bok prop Gürthro Steenkamp for another week after all the rugby he has played this season.
Kuün fronted up when asked about the pressure on the side and said the players know how important winning against the Lions, who sit one place above them in fourth, is for the campaign this season.
“Every guy knows where he stands in this time, and we all know how important this game is for us. We’re at a crossroads, and we need to get past it. If every guy does his best this weekend and we play our normal brand of successful rugby, then we will be okay,” Kuün said.
The Bulls captain was challenged on this statement, asked if it meant that some players in the team were not pulling their weight, but he disagreed.
“I’d beg to differ. There has been stuff we have been trying which doesn’t always come off. But we know if we stick to the pattern, and play Bulls rugby we will be successful.”
While acknowledging that the Lions were dangerous because of the momentum they had built up, Kuün said his side were ready to limit their mistakes, especially as they had realised how many tries the Lions had scored off turnovers.
“All credit to the Lions, they have played very well over the past five games and they have taken a while to gel as a team. But if we do what we need to do, it is easy to stop momentum. You can lose momentum in one game and what we bring to the game this weekend is what matters.
“The pressure is on us but luckily we know how to hand that pressure. We always find a way to come through with that pressure. The senior guys in this side are important, but there are junior guys who have made the step up.
“The time for everyone to step up is now. We know it is a bit of a cliché, but we have our backs against the wall and we need to step up right now.”
Vodacom Blue Bulls: Zane Kirchner; Gerhard van der Heever, Jaco Pretorius, Stefan Watermeyer, Jaco van der Westhuyzen; Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Francois Hougaard; Gerrit-Jan van Velze, CJ Stander, Derick Kuün, Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling.
Reserves: Gary Botha, Rossouw de Klerk, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Okkie Kruger, Dustin Jinka, Stephan Dippenaar.