Bulls need 'solid set-piece base'
The Bulls may be second on the try-scorers' list, but they will go back to basics for their Super Rugby derby with the Sharks.
The Bulls may be second on this season's try-scorers' list, but they will go back to basics for their crucial Super Rugby derby with the Sharks on Friday.
Despite having a very decent track record in Durban - the venue of Friday's showdown - Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is taking nothing for granted.
The Bulls have won five of their eight visits to Durban in the last decade and have won four of their last five encounters with the Sharks. The last time the Sharks beat the Bulls in a Super Rugby match in Durban was back in 2007.
However, having named an unchanged team - with continuity a key factor - Ludeke has put set pieces high on his team's priority list as they strive to secure a top-six finish two weeks out from the play-offs.
Despite the short turnaround, with a Friday game cutting their preparation time short, Ludeke felt the Sharks will again bring the best out of his players.
"It will be a very bruising encounter," he told this website during the build-up to Friday's crunch encounter, adding: "We will have to be at our best."
The Sharks, a team that is always physical and play very direct, will ask some serious questions of the visitors.
"The battle in the set pieces and on the advantage line will be brutal," Ludeke said, adding: "That is where games against them [the Sharks] are often won and lost.
"They are a team that works hard at getting quality possession on the front foot ... to ensure they get good momentum and get their strengths [strong runners] into the game."
The Bulls mentor admitted that playing in Durban, away from the rarified Highveld air, requires some adjustments.
"It is different when you play at the coast, but there won't be major changes in the way we play.
"In the territorial battle we will need to make a few minor tweaks, but overall it won't change much.
"Our set pieces will need to be sound to ensure we have a base to attack from or to get out of our own territory ... those are the key aspects.
"The breakdown is also a key area against the Sharks."
The Sharks, in eighth place on the global standings and in a 'must win' scenario if they hope to keep their play-off hops alive, will not lack motivation.
However, Ludeke said his players will be just as "charges up" on Friday.
"Everybody is in the same situation - no team that is still in the running can afford to lose.
"There is just as much at stake for us.
"That is why we will have to be very accurate - we need to ensure we create opportunities and finish those off."
By Jan de Koning