Home Sport Bulls have more than travel fatigue to worry ahead of quarter-final

Bulls have more than travel fatigue to worry ahead of quarter-final

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‘The team that plays in the right areas of the field and takes control of the game will win. Our game management is going to be important. It’s going to be a massive game’ – Embrose Papier.

Embrose Papier of the Bulls during the United Rugby Championship 2023/24 match against Lyon at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria on 06 April 2024. Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Mike Greenaway

The Bulls depart on Tuesday night for their Champions Cup quarter-final match against the Northampton Saints. It is an understatement to say they are underdogs against the English Premiership log leaders.

The convoluted travel route to Northampton has been well documented by coach Jake White, who rightly cannot understand why the direct flight from Johannesburg to London is not utilised, but travel fatigue is just one factor mitigating against the visitors.

Lying in wait are two South African players in the ranks of the Saints and they will be bringing their teammates up to speed on the team Northampton have never played.

Burger Odendaal and Juarno Augustus played significant roles in Northampton’s defeat of Munster last week. Augustus had an impact with his brawn off the bench while midfielder Odendaal showed good hands to set up two tries.

Bulls scrumhalf Embrose Papier had a knowing grin when asked about the impact the pair could have on Saturday.

“Burger spent most of his life at the Bulls. He knows exactly how we play and will definitely be giving them some information,” Papier said. “He and Trokkie (Augustus) are both physical players but they can also handle the ball.”

Papier said the Bulls spent time on Monday going over the Saints’ defeat of Munster. It was no mean feat, considering that Munster are the URC champions.

“It’s going to be tough. We had a look today at how they play. The travel is going to be tough and it looks like it will be cold and wet, plus we are flying on a Tuesday night.

“Usually when we travel late, we take it slow when we get to England or France. We will relax and do a lot of stretches.

“Northampton are a good side. Usually, people think teams in England or Europe kick the ball a lot, but Northampton can run the ball from everywhere.

“But we also like to run the ball and we are feeling confident after bouncing back nicely from the Leinster game with a strong performance against Lyon.”

Papier has been in excellent form and scored two tries in the 59-19 rout.

“After the defeat to Leinster, the guys were down, but we reacted well against Lyon. It’s going to be a physical game. The weather doesn’t look good. I think it will almost be like Test rugby,” Papier said.

“The team that plays in the right areas of the field and takes control of the game will win. Our game management is going to be important. It’s going to be a massive game.

“If we look back at our game against Leinster, we kicked a lot just to make sure we played in the right areas. But if you kick too far or in the middle of the field, teams in the UK will punish you. They are used to playing in these conditions. Consistency with our kicking will be very important whether it is from nine, 10 or 15.”

Papier earned seven caps for the Springboks back in 2018 but he has not given up hope of a recall.

“I am feeling good about my game and that is because I am getting a lot of game time. The coaches are backing me. I am working hard and trying to do my best every weekend. You have to work hard because of the number of quality nines in the country.

“I have to focus on getting better day by day. To get a recall, I will have to be consistent every weekend.”

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