Big challenge for Bulls' Boks
Big challenge for Bulls' BoksSHARE
The Blue Bulls' highly rated all-Springbok midfield combination will have to deal with the added weight of expectation this week.
JJ Engelbrecht and Jan Serfontein may come with big reputations, but that will mean nothing when the Bulls go up against the Free State Cheetahs in a decisive Currie Cup Round 10 encounter in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Bulls must win, collect a four-try bonus point and deny the Cheetahs a bonus point of any sorts if they are to sneak past the Free Staters into the play-offs.
And the inclusion of the Bok duo, Engelbrecht and Serfontein, ahead of the settled combination of Francois Venter and William Small-Smith in midfield means the spotlight will be on the international players.
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar admitted that while the return of their Boks is a point of debate for any team, the precarious position his team find themselves in adds extra pressure on the Pretoria outfit's returning Boks.
"In our situation we are unfortunate with [Bok lock] Flip [van der Merwe] being ruled out [with a knee injury]," Pienaar told this website.
"JJ [Engelbrecht] and Jan [Serfontein] come into the team in midfield," he said, adding: "I feel sorry for players like Francois Venter and William Small-Smith, as they have started to combine well.
"JJ and Jan return from Bok duty and this weekend they have to go show why they are Springboks.
"I am very glad to have them back, but all the Boks have a big responsibility for the success of their respective teams."
The additional challenge is that the Bulls have had very little time to reintegrate their two international stars.
"It is a tough position we are in, so from the get go we have to find our rhythm and that is our big challenge," Pienaar told this website.
"Apart from the result [a win] we need to get, the tries [at least four] we have to score and the points difference [beat the Cheetahs by at least 12] that we must get, the biggest challenge will be to find our rhythm as a team as quickly as possible.
"Jan [Serfontein] will play alongside [flyhalf Handré] Pollard, and they had a few games together for South African Under-20 last year.
"We also made a few changes to the loose forwards [Jacques Engelbrecht at No.8 and Jono Ross moved to flank], so it is vital that they gel together as soon as possible and ensure we get off to a good start."
By Jan de Koning