Griquas will draw inspiration from the fact that they managed to shake off the average team tag in the recently completed SuperSport Rugby Challenge competition
With new Blue Bulls coach John Mitchell wielding the axe to shape a new-look team after last week’s embarrassment in Nelspruit, the Tafel Lager Griquas would do well to be vigilant; however, they should not make the mistake of being overly cautious.
After the 51-15 thrashing the Bulls received last week from the Steval Pumas, they will be determined to reverse that result when they take the field at home against the visiting Griquas this evening at 6.15pm.
Griquas themselves have spent the last two weeks nursing the wounds left after the very same Pumas beat them 27-21 at Tafel Lager Park in their last fixture.
The Pumas have turned out to be somewhat of a rising force of late as the league enters the halfway mark and heads towards its October 28 finale.
From being the league’s whipping boys the Pumas are now stationed in fourth place on the log after all teams have played six games.
Above them are the powerhouses Western Province, the Sharks and the log-topping Free State Cheetahs, while below them lie Griquas in fifth, the Blue Bulls sixth, and the Lions in an unfamiliar position right at the bottom of the standings.
This evening’s clash finds both the Bulls and Griquas anxious to avoid slipping down the log, making this a must-win encounter for these teams.
Griquas will draw inspiration from the fact that they managed to shake off the average team tag in the recently completed SuperSport Rugby Challenge competition, finishing as runners-up after a bruising season.
Speaking to Griquas head coach Peter Engledow it’s clear that Griquas will be ulta-vigilant going into this evening’s fixture at Loftus, knowing that the Bulls are never easy to beat in their own backyard.
Engledow told the DFA that, despite many people speaking about complacency on Griquas part when facing the Pumas, he believed that it was more a case of fatigue.
“Although we did not underestimate the Pumas, there were certain areas where we were not good,” said the coach. “The thought of the week off – after playing 13 matches in 12 weeks, including a SuperSport final – eventually took its toll on our small squad of players.
“We are not looking for excuses but it was really a poor performance against the Pumas.
“However, looking ahead, we know that the Bulls will be coming hard at us after their loss to the Pumas last week.
“We have been analysing the Bulls and our matches against the Pumas during this week at practices; and with the Bulls under new coach John Mitchell for the past two weeks, we know that we cannot underestimate them, or any other team in the Currie Cup for that matter,” Engledow added.
Engledow said that there was a real hunger in the Griqua team, and healthy competition. “There is great competition amongst the players, vying for a place in the team, and there will be some disappointment for the guys not selected this time.
“We have selected the team from players who have been performing well, as we will be hoping to give a good account for ourselves and come away with a win.”
The head coach also told the DFA that there was some bad news on the injury front.
“Unfortunately Ewald van der Westhuizen is out for the rest of the season; but even worse is the fact that there are three other loose-forwards, Devon Nash, RJ Liebenberg and Steph Vermeulen, whose rugby careers have ended,” lamented the coach.
“Mzwanele Zito is out with an ankle injury and the two Brandt brothers are also disappointingly still out,” Engledow added. “But we are virtually back to full strength and the guys are excited about being back on the pitch after the week’s break.”
Engledow also said that there were quite a few unknowns going into the match. “At present, the Bulls are under pressure and will be coming out hard at us, but I am not quite sure how John Mitchell will be approaching the game, as he is in the process of rebuilding his team and changing the mindsets of the Bulls players.
“However, we aim to do our bit well especially the basics, while they have a strong midfield combination and physical forwards which we hope to neutralise up front. They have also lost a few quality players over the years and we will be in there with a shout,” Engledow concluded.
There is no doubt that Griquas want to end this Currie Cup season as they did the SuperSport Rugby Challenge. And to further boost their morale the team’s flyhalves, André Swarts and George Whitehead, are second and fourth on the points rankings for the competition. Swarts has also slotted the most penalties (eight) and put over 12 conversions, one less than the Bulls’ Tony Jantjies who is in top spot.
The Bulls in turn will be emboldened by the return to form of key players Duncan Matthews, Jade Stiglingh as well as flanker Shaun Adendorff and centre Burger Odendaal.
The match kicks off at 6.15pm and will be televised live on SuperSport One (channel 201)
Griquas (15-1): AJ Coertzen (capt), Ederies Arendse, Tertius Kruger, Johnathan Francke, Koch Marx, André Swarts, Christiaan Meyer, Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, Sias Koen, Wendal Wehr (v/c), Pieter JV Vuren, FP Pelser, Stephan Kotze, Wilmar Arnoldi and Liam Hendricks. Bench: AJ Le Roux, Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Jonathan Adendorf, De Wet Kruger, Renier Botha, George Whitehead and Eric Zana.