Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretoria - A year ago they felt the pain of losing, but this year the Vodacom Bulls are “desperate” to avoid the same fate of missing out on the playoff stages of Vodacom Super Rugby.
According to the SuperSport website
, This is why they are determined not to let the Sharks stand in the way of their goal when the two teams meet in a crucial match at Kings Park on Friday night.
Coach Frans Ludeke admitted as much as he named the same side that beat the Cheetahs 40-24 at Loftus Versfeld this past weekend, acknowledging the way the Bulls started after a three-week break was what they were hoping to repeat in Durban this Friday.
The Bulls need to record a victory to keep their slim hopes of topping the South African conference alive. More than that though, they need to win to ensure they qualify for the playoffs and hopefully finish as high up the log as they possibly can.
Ditto for the Sharks, who are in a more precarious position and need the victory to try and qualify for the playoffs. Both sides simply cannot afford to lose this one and, same as last year where there was a similar winner-takes-all battle, neither side can afford to fail.
This is why it is unlikely that wholesale changes will be made during the Durban encounter as the Bulls did when 40-0 up against the Cheetahs. Their bench failed to make an impact and conceded four tries in 20 minutes without reply, something that is still a concern as the team struggles to finish off matches.
Still, coach Ludeke is keen to keep the foot on the accelerator pedal and wants the momentum from the Cheetahs victory to be repeated in Durban.
“It’s an exciting part of the tournament now and there is a lot at stake. We had a great start against the Cheetahs and we’re hoping to build on that in Durban. We’re just hoping to focus on our plan and our process and get a good result on the weekend,” Ludeke said at the team announcement.
“We’re also desperate. Everybody needs to win. That’s what makes it such a special game on Friday. Both teams need to be successful and playing against the Sharks, its always physical. It is about the basics - small things will make a difference on Friday night.”
There was much talk about being clinical on Friday night, where both teams will set themselves up for a battle royale against the other. Fierce and physical it will be, but both teams will need to build an innings in a game that is likely to be as close as it is brutal.
The Bulls therefore decided to not play Deon Stegmann in the match 22 this week, leaving CJ Stander the role as bench impact player while the two Potgieters – hard-running Jacques and the hard-working Dewald - will need to tame the Sharks loose trio.
Dewald Potgieter made an astounding 28 tackles according to the team stats this week, while his namesake enjoyed a good 75 metres gained as a ball carrier. Both will need to repeat their stats if they are to be on the winning side this coming weekend.
The match will also be special because both Chiliboy Ralepelle and Wilhelm Steenkamp are likely to notch up half century appearances in Super Rugby.Teams:
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Francois Venter