Bulls plan to avoid breakdown Blues
Bulls plan to avoid breakdown BluesSHARE
Deon Stegmann, one of the few openside specialists in South Africa, will be crucial to the Bulls' cause in Auckland on Sunday.
Bulls captain Pierre Spies felt the return of Stegmann from a hamstring injury, will be a major fillip for the South African tourists when they tackle the Blues at Eden Park on Sunday.
The Bulls failed to convince, despite scoring a bonus-point (36-26) win over the Western Force – with an alarming 17 turnovers conceded at Loftus Versfeld last week.
Against a quality side like the Blues, one of the form teams in the competition, the men from Pretoria can't afford another day of breakdown blues.
"I think there will be a difference, with a specialist openside [flank] like Deon Stegmann," Spies said in a teleconference call from the team's base in Auckland.
The Bulls' starting team for Sunday's Round Four encounter shows numerous changes – at wing, centre, scrumhalf, loose forward, prop and hooker.
However, it is the return of Stegmann that is likely to have the biggest impact.
"We had a very disrupted back row against the Western Force," Spies explained, adding: "This week it will be different and we addressed that [the breakdown] in our preparation.
"A guy like Deon [Stegmann] will make a big difference, but as a team we will also need to adapt.
"We will have to be more focussed and clinical when it comes to the breakdown. We need to be more aware and our reaction speed needs to be better at the breakdown – we need to ensure the ball comes out quicker."
Spies said it is not a case of loading the breakdown with numbers, but rather a need to pay more attention.
The Blues, who have won both their matches this season by comfortable margins (34-20 against the Hurricanes and 34-15 against the Crusaders), have scored nine tries in two magical displays of expansive rugby.
Yet, the Bulls feel they can still stamp their authority on the game.
"Yes, they had a great performance against the Crusaders [scoring five tries to nil]," Spies said from Auckland.
"We know they are a quality team and they have had two good wins already this season.
"However, we are going in there with our own plan.
"We have to be aware of what we want to do. Hopefully on Sunday we can implement our best game with a clinical performance."
Asked about their poor track record in Auckland, where the Bulls have lost on all their visits, with a 21-23 loss in 2008 the closest they came to victory, Spies remained upbeat.
"Coming here is never easy," the Bulls captain said, adding: "We have played some good games here, but we haven't won.
So we will have to produced a full 80-minute performance of quality rugby against a Blues team that has been outstanding in their first two matches.
"We know we have a huge job on hand, but hopefully we can pull it off on Sunday."
By Jan de Koning