The fine line between fear and fun
The fine line between fear and funSHARE
Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar is treading a fine line as he looks to bring his team back from the brink of disaster.
With a very young team, of which almost half still qualify to play in the junior ranks, the Bulls are at risk of being forced into a season-ending promotion-relegation series – currently sitting just one point ahead of the last-placed Griquas.
However, their saving grace could be a South African Rugby Union proposal that the Currie Cup competition be expanded to eight teams next year.
A meeting in Johannesburg on Thursday failed to reach an agreement on the subject, mainly because a number of unions refused to agree to a proposal that would guarantee the EP Kings Premier Division status till 2016.
A new meeting, to continue the debate and find a possible resolution, has been set for September 30.
In the meantime the Bulls have to continue as if there will be promotion-relegation games at the end of the season and hope to avoid finishing last.
"We are in a difficult position," Pienaar told this website in an interview ahead of his team's must-win encounter with the Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
"We always knew it was going to be a tough season, but we realise we are now beginning to run out of time to make the play-offs," Pienaar said.
Pienaar declined to use the youthful nature of his team as an excuse for a season that has seen them record just two wins and a draw.
"In all our games we did well up to a stage and then just one or two decisions or errors of judgment cost us," the Bulls mentor said.
In a competition as demanding as the Currie Cup most teams will make you pay for errors and it is a harsh lesson for the young Bulls players, who have to start stepping up to the plate.
Another frustration for the coaching staff is the inability of the team to turn opportunities into points.
"We got that aspect right in the second half against the Free State [Cheetahs – a 26-10 win earlier this month], but in the other games there are those moments when we put pressure on the opposition, then we make a mistake that releases the valve.
"This weekend, if we can produce an 80-minute game of the highest quality, cut the errors and keep up the pressure it is possible to get that vital win."
However, the desperate situation his team finds itself in means there will be even more pressure on the youngsters at Ellis Park.
"That is a fine line," Pienaar told this website, adding: "You don't want to overwhelm the players with pressure of 'you must win'.
"Of course we all dream of winning the Currie Cup [competition], but you also don't want players to be too scared to play or too scared to attempt plays.
"For us it is about a certain structure and a process that we want to stay true to. When we have stuck to that [the game plan] the team looked dangerous.
"We will have to get our energy from the process and the structure, rather than put pressure on individuals.
"Everybody know what their roles are.
"The younger players have come through the structures, in our junior teams, so everybody knows what to do to get results.
"It is simply a matter of cutting out the errors with which we put ourselves under pressure."
By Jan de Koning