Bulls gearing for a 'big freeze'
Bulls gearing for a 'big freeze'SHARE
It is not so much the cold front that is busy moving in over Cape Town, although that will play a role, but the home team that could make life unpleasant for the Bulls at Newlands on Saturday.
While the Sharks are already assured of winning the South African conference – guaranteeing them a top-three finish – the Bulls are clinging to a mathematical chance of reaching the Super Rugby play-offs.
However, they must win their two remaining games – against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday and the Rebels in Pretoria next Friday – to keep that dream alive. Two four-try bonus points would do their cause no harm.
However, that remains a tall order, given what awaits them in Cape Town.
The mid-winter cold front closing in on the Mother City and the Stormers' famed defence will both make life unpleasant for the visitors.
Capetonians are already bracing themselves for some unpleasant weather at the weekend, with the worst of the cold front set to move in on Saturday morning. It is expected to be accompanied by heavy rainfall, snow falls over the high lying mountains and low temperatures.
However, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is more concerned about the quality of the opposition than the unpleasant conditions they could experience.
"In the last six years there has only been one four-try bonus-point in matches between these teams," the Bulls mentor told rugby365.
The last four-try bonus point in these north-south derbies was scored when the Stormers smashed the Bulls 38-10 at Newlands in 2010. The previous four-try bonus point before that was way back in 2007, when the Stormers overpowered a severely depleted Bulls team 49-12 in 2007 – when the visitors from Pretoria rested all their frontline players in the final league match ahead of the play-offs.
Ludeke felt the lack of tries show the emphasis placed on and commitment shown on defence by both teams.
"The gainline will again be a crucial battlefield and it will most likely be a very tactical game," the Bulls coach said.
In games of this nature discipline is key, as penalties are what gives either team momentum.
He felt that, as always, the set piece will be a key aspect in the game.
"These two teams always seem to bring out the best in each other and there is a long history of these derbies, between the two teams.
"Both teams also have a lot to play for, as they want to finish their season on a high."
Because of the value the Bulls are placing on getting a positive result, Ludeke did not rest any of his frontline players.
While selection was influenced by a number of factors, including the injury of Flip van der Merwe, the decision to name stand-in Springbok captain Victor Matfield is an indication how determined the Bulls are to come away from Newlands with a win.
"It is an important game for us and we want to finish on a positive note in our last two games," he said of the encounters with the Stormers and Rebels.
Ludeke told rugby365 that the decision to name Handré Pollard at flyhalf, ahead of regular starter Jacques-Louis Potgieter, was something they discussed even before the June break.
"A lot of things, that had a very positive affect in Handre Pollard's life, happened since that discussion.
"We are very proud of him and happy for him."
The coach feels the 20-year-old will have enough support in the team to get him through his first big north-south derby.
"Hougies [Francois Hougaard] and Jan [Serfontein] played alongside him for the Springboks [against Scotland] last Saturday, so that continuity will make a difference.
"Pollard and inside centre Jan Serfontein have played together on a number of occasions since their junior [South African Under-20] days."
By Jan de Koning