Bulls believe in 'winning combination'
Bulls believe in 'winning combination'SHARE
The return of World Cup-winning lock Victor Matfield has given the Bulls a 'winning combination' for their second match of tour.
The men from Pretoria take on the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday, just six days after losing their opening Australasian tour match 20-25 to the Hurricanes.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke on Tuesday named an unchanged backline, but reshuffled his pack – partly due to the loss of Deon Stegmann (groin injury) and Dewald Potgieter (bicep), who both returned home already.
The injuries resulted in Grant Hattingh being shifted from the second row (where he provided cover from the bench) to No.8, Jono Ross playing at openside flank in place of Stegmann and Jacques du Plessis coming in at blindside flank – with Jacques Engelbrecht on the bench.
However, a more significant change has taken place in the second row – where Bok veteran Matfield will start at No.5 lock, with fellow Bok and captain Flip van der Merwe moving to No.4 – with young Paul Willemse dropping down to the bench.
Ludeke, despite saying last week that Matfield will only play if there is second row injuries, felt that his combination with Van der Merwe can get the team back on track.
"We believe Victor and Flip starting is a winning combination," Ludeke said in a teleconference call from the team's training base in the holiday resort of Queenstown on the New Zealand South Island.
"They know each other well and between the two of them we have a lot of experience," the Bulls mentor said, adding: "Hopefully we can put a little more pressure on the opposition ball at the weekend."
He also felt that they can overcome the loss of Stegmann, the team's one specialist openside flank, and Dewald Potgieter by producing a collective effort at the breakdown.
"Deon [Stegmann] and Dewald [Potgieter] are international players and quality loose forwards," Ludeke said.
"However, every team has [injury] setbacks like this. We have to put it behind us and work with the new combination.
"The loose trio [this week] is much stronger in the line-outs. Jacques du Plessis still provides us with that ability to get the ball over the advantage line and Jono Ross has played a number of games on the openside [flank] for us. We are expecting a huge effort from them on Friday."
The Bulls coach admitted that Ross will play a key role in terms of tactics and planning this week.
"Strategy always has a lot to do with your selection," he said, adding: "We will work around their strengths and all three are quality players that bring different strengths into the game.
"Jacques Engelbrecht has been very effective as an impact every time he has come off the bench.
"We believe in and back all four our loose forwards."
The coach said the fact that Stegmann left the field with an injury inside the first 10 minutes is not the main reason for the team's struggles at the breakdown against the Hurricanes – who had a rampant Jack Lam at their disposal.
"We do have other players that can also force turnovers at the breakdown and making smart decisions there.
"We, as a team, will take responsibility for securing our ball at the breakdown and also forcing turnovers there."
By Jan de Koning