Pretoria - The Blue Bulls need to eliminate the soft moments conceded in their matches so far this season if they want to stay in the running for the Currie Cup, coach Pine Pienaar said on Wednesday.
“The pressure builds and maybe the players lose focus, but it is those soft moments we create (which cause problems),” Pienaar said at team announcement in Pretoria.
“We conceded nine turnover tries from broken play. So our biggest problem is absorbing the pressure from the other side. We need to apply our own pressure on them and convert that into points.”
The Currie Cup reaches the halfway mark this weekend with the Bulls having lost two of their first four matches.
They improved somewhat after a 62-23 demolition against the Lions two weeks ago to a more respectable 34-18 defeat to the Sharks in Durban last week.
Pienaar was optimistic his team was moving in the right direction and could still turn their season around.
“Last year, we were in the same position where we lost three in a row and we still made it to a semi-final.
“But we don’t want to be in that position again."
He believed the team had made major strides since their embarrassing home defeat against the Lions and they were looking to make further improvements against the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Cheetahs go to the capital city with their tales up, following a convincing 40-20 victory over Griquas in Bloemfontein last weekend.
“The log is always in the back of your mind, but it is more important for us to look at our performance and be better than we were last weekend,” Pienaar said.
“You are playing against quality sides and, here and there, you are going to get thumped. That is what happened over the last two weekends.
“If we can put up a better performance, the scoreboard will look after itself.”
The Bulls would be buoyed by the return of Francois Venter, who replaced Ulrich Beyers at inside centre.
Pienaar said Venter has been the in-form player in that position before a shoulder injury ruled him out of contention. He would provide some calmness to teenage flyhalf Handré Pollard on his inside.
Flanker Jacques Engelbrecht, who was one of the standout players for the Light Blues in Durban, would start for the first time this season in place of Jacques du Plessis.
In the only other change to the starting XV, prop Marcel van der Merwe replaced the injured Morné Mellett.
Meanwhile, Bulls stalwart Akona Ndungane would play in his 50th Currie Cup match for the Pretoria-based side.
“He is a special player, he brings a calmness around the side and the backline which I love,” Pienaar said.
“It is amazing how much energy he brings, even though he is an ‘old man’ and I hope he will have a big 50th game.”
15 Jürgen Visser,
14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Akona
Ndungane, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7
Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul
Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Marcel van der Merwe
16 Bandise Maku, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Jacques du
Plessis, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Ulrich Beyers, 22 Clayton Blommetjies
Free State Cheetahs:
15 Hennie Daniller,
14 Riaan Smit, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10
Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter
Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo (captain), 5 Lodewyk De Jager, 4 Teboho
Mohoje, 3 Rossouw De Klerk, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Wian Du Preez, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon
Raubenheimer, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Willie Du Plessis, 22 Piet Lindeque