Johannesburg - The Vodacom Blue Bulls believe they have the momentum to upset the Sharks in Durban this coming weekend in their Absa Currie Cup semi-final.
According to supersport.com website, a few weeks ago the competition looked certain to deliver Dewald Potgieter’s side into the jaws of a promotion-relegation battle, but after this weekend’s comprehensive win – the team’s third in four matches – they claimed the unlikely fourth spot and will head to Durban for the semi-final.
With the Bulls enjoying a welcome return to form and momentum now with their Springboks in the side, they suddenly have a renewed self-belief that they can not only compete in Durban, but have a chance to sneak into the final as well.
While the Sharks will start as overwhelming favourites this weekend, and have home ground advantage as a massive factor in the game, the Bulls are backing themselves to take another step up and continue their run from the back of the field.
A fortnight ago the Bulls were somewhat unlucky to go down 13-12 in driving rain as the Sharks used their chances. But there is no doubt this Bulls team has improved significantly since that rainy night in the coastal city. And with the Sharks able to bring their Springboks back this week to bolster their team, it makes the clash even more intriguing.
Especially if you consider the Sharks have only lost one game this year – against the Chiefs – in Durban, and last lost a Currie Cup game in October 2011 at their home ground. In the Currie Cup, the last time the Blue Bulls won in Durban was in 2006, although they have had some Super Rugby victories at the ground between then and now.
The whole scenario has not been lost on captain Dewald Potgieter, who believes the momentum has given them a massive boost ahead of the semis.
“This win (over the Lions) definitely does it for us. If you look at our season we’ve beaten every side this season at least once. If you look at the Sharks, we beat them at Loftus and we came really close in Durban. There was a lot of talk that week of it being a difficult fixture for us and playing the Sharks in Durban was a bit overdone. The game showed the guys we can beat them in Durban and we can play well there,” Potgieter said.
But the captain was also honest enough to know his team would need to up their game before the weekend. For now though, he’s just happy they are here in the playoffs, a long shot from where they were a few weeks ago.
“This whole week will go about our preparation for the Sharks. It is all we can focus on. Four weeks ago I just asked the guys for a chance to play in the playoffs and we have that now. We did sneak in at the end though and despite the fact that it was a big victory there is still a lot of work for us to do this week and we need to focus on taking it one day at a time,” he added.
The Bulls struggled in the first half against the Lions and were 10 points behind at one stage, but slowly gained ascendancy up front, allowing flyhalf Morne Steyn to dictate and eventually ran out easy winners as the Lions gave away soft tries in the second half.
Potgieter said this was simply a case of adjusting with the Boks returning and needing time to settle in. Once the adjustments were made up front, he added, the game changed in their favout.
“Guys expect our pack to dominate but these guys haven’t trained a lot together for a long time. We had just as many disruptions and players returning, that’s why we struggled a bit in the first half. For the Boks that returned, it took them a while to see how the Lions attacked – there was a lot of movement off the ball and while we spoke about it last week, it’s one thing to talk, but another to make the adjustments we made and it is credit to the talent the Boks have to make that a reality.”
Despite some unhappiness about the system – which has suddenly cropped up this past weekend when the Bulls snuck in, Potgieter praised the competition format as “one of the best ever”.
“In the last weekend anyone of the bottom four teams could still have played relegation matches. It’s sad that there hasn’t been a lot of attendance, but it is one of the best Currie Cups I’ve played in. All the teams were strong, and not one team was consistent the whole way through. This was the last weekend and everybody upped their game. There was great rugby all around and the Lions were a good side to play. We knew we needed to be hungry and be at our best and we’re just happy we made it through.”
The Bulls are likely to keep an unchanged team this weekend for their clash in Durban.