Sports correspondent Ashfak Mohamed looks at five things the Bulls must get right to have any chance of winning in Kimberley.
Cape Town – The Blue Bulls last played in the Currie Cup on February 2 , when they lost 38-25 to the Free State Cheetahs in Pretoria.
Coach Gert Smal is set to name his team today for tomorrow’s clash against Griquas in Kimberley, and is likely to bolster the side with a few players from the United Rugby Championship squad.
But Griquas won’t be afraid of that, having beaten the Pumas and Western Province this season.
Here are five things the Bulls must get right to have any chance of winning …
1. Don’t allow Zander du Plessis long-range kicks
Having been at Tuks previously, Zander du Plessis will want to prove a point against the Bulls, as he wasn’t able to progress through to their senior ranks – for whatever reason. He possesses a monster boot in the Frans Steyn mould, and can slot penalties from well inside his own half.
That means that the Bulls’ discipline will have to be squeaky clean: no avoidable offside infringements or taking players out in the air. Otherwise Du Plessis, who can operate at flyhalf or centre, will make the visitors pay …
2. Stop the Griquas maul
The Kimberley outfit are renowned for doing the dirty work at the rucks, where they have been able to slow down the possession of much more fancied teams that come to Griqua Park.
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But they have added a bit of ingenuity in the rolling maul this season – possibly due to the presence of wily former Cheetahs line-out specialist Barend Pieterse – and were able to score two maul tries in their famous 22-20 win over Province a few weeks ago.
The Bulls may load their pack with a couple of forwards from their United Rugby Championship match-23, and that will be necessary to add to some grunt to their Currie Cup team.
3. Gain scrum dominance
Loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka conceded that the Bulls scrum has not been up to scratch this season in both the United Rugby Championship and Currie Cup, and they will face another stern test against a Griquas pack that earned a number of scrum penalties against WP.
It is all to play for in the front row at the Pretoria union. Jacques van Rooyen has been the preferred tighthead in the United Rugby Championship side in the absence of the injured Mornay Smith, so perhaps Robert Hunt can make a statement in that regard if he gets a start against Griquas.
Similarly, Gqoboka is missing out on the United Rugby Championship team, with Gerhard Steenekamp and Simphiwe Matanzima operating on the left-hand side of the scrum.
4. Backline heroes needed
A major part of the Bulls’ triumphs in the last two Currie Cups was the emergence of new backline stars. David Kriel was a breath of fresh air at fullback, Kurt-Lee Arendse ran rings around the opposition and Stravino Jacobs was a powerhouse finisher out wide.
Which fresh-faced youngster will stand up and make a name for himself against Griquas? Perhaps it can be young flyhalf Juan Mostert, who travelled with the United Rugby Championship team to Italy for last week’s win over Zebre.
Director or rugby Jake White seems to rate him highly from his exploits at junior level, and the fact that he can play at flyhalf, centre and fullback could make him a valuable asset going forward.
But can he do it on a hot afternoon in Kimberley against a tough Griquas side?
5. Tighten up the defence
The Bulls conceded six tries in their last Currie Cup game. They have now had over a month to iron out those shortcomings, and there should be greater cohesion in defence this time around.