Bulls remain in 'sudden death' mode

Thu, 27 Sep 2012 16:24
Large francois venter bulls run 6 Large dewald potgieter bulls gest Large cj stander 630

The Blue Bulls may have given themselves a shot at reaching the Currie Cup play-offs, but they are a long way off from securing a spot in the semifinals.

The Blue Bulls may have given themselves a shot at reaching the Currie Cup play-offs, but they are a long way off from securing a spot in the semifinals.

The Bulls moved of the bottom of the standings and past the Free State Cheetahs when they edged the men from Bloemfontein in a thriller last week.

However, that only opened the backdoor ever so slightly and they simply can't afford another slip-up in the last three weeks of the competition - starting with a trip to Durban and an encounter with the second-placed Sharks on Friday.

"We at least gave ourselves a chance to fight for a play-off spot, but if we are not successful in the next three weeks we won't make it ... as we are still outside the top four," Bulls coach Pine Pienaar told this website in an interview.

"Friday is another toughie [against the Sharks] in Durban - if we lose this one, and [the] Free State [Cheetahs] beat Griquas we will suddenly find ourselves back at the bottom of the standings.

"That is simply how tough the competition is.

"The Sharks are also coming off a loss, but they are still playing for a home semifinal and they will be up for it after their defeat at the hands of the Lions."

Pienaar felt the real positive of last week's win is that it means the Bulls still have their destiny in their own hands and don't have to rely on other results.

"That is the opportunity we gave ourselves by beating Free State last week, but we have to go out and be successful again this week," he added.

Pienaar, who was forced to tweak his loose forward combination after the recall of Jacques Potgieter to the national team, said the decision to name CJ Stander at No.8 is the best fit for his team.

Captain Dewald Potgieter, who remains at No.6, enjoys it more when he plays to the ball, while Stander is "comfortable" at the back of the scrum.

"CJ is more comfortable to play back [cover deep], while Dewald has done well at No.8, but he feels he can make a bigger impact at No.6 and he is comfortable with the role."

He hinted that the 'fear of failure' inhibited the players somewhat against the Cheetahs last week and he would like to see them play with a bit more freedom in Durban.

"When we scored that try early in the second half, there was an outside chance that with two more tries we could get the bonus point," he told this website, adding: "But you don't get any freebies from this Free State team and they came back, put us under pressure ... we got very little possession.

"We conceded a number of penalties and three of our kicks went too far, from where they started counters," he said when asked why the players seemed to become hesitant and went into defensive mode.

"The guys know what they can do," Pienaar said, adding: "My philosophy is never to box the players and say your are not allowed to do this or that.

"We have our gameplan for Durban. To attack with kicks will be difficult, because at sea level the kicks don't travel as far and that may result in a slight tweak to our tactics.

"However, I still want to ensure the players have the freedom to do what they feel is right ... when they see a situation they must make the call.

"They must have that confidence to go for it - the difficulty, given the position we were in, was that because we had lost [the previous three games] doubt started creeping in ... it means players are hesitate to take chances, as they are scared of making mistakes.

"I want them to go out there and play with the freedom that will ensure they put the Sharks under pressure."

By Jan de Koning

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Free State Cheetahs v Sharks 12h00 Bloemfontein
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Team P W D L Pts
Golden Lions 9 9 0 0 43
Blue Bulls 9 7 0 2 34
Western Province 9 6 0 3 30
Free State Cheetahs 9 3 1 5 21
Sharks 9 4 0 5 19
Pumas 9 3 1 5 16
EP Kings 9 2 0 7 12
Griquas 9 1 0 8 8