World-class Bulls to 'choke' Sharks?
World-class Bulls to 'choke' Sharks?SHARE
Veteran Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis described the Bulls as a "world-class" team that suffocate and strangle the opposition into submission.
The Sharks head to Pretoria on Saturday to face the Bulls – the home team sitting pretty in second place on the standings, having already wrapped up the South African conference, and the visitors desperate to keep their slim play-off hopes alive.
The 30-year-old prop, with 45 Test caps to his credit, has faced the Bulls often enough in Pretoria to know exactly how big the hurdle is facing the Sharks.
"The Bulls are a side that plays so well under pressure, that's why they are second on the log," said in an interview on the Sharks website.
"Last time [a 18-16 win by the Bulls in Durban] we tried to get one over them, but unfortunately it didn't work out because they took the points when they were on offer," Du Plessis said of their encounter back in May.
"Our focus will be to touch up on the discipline, because we gave away a few silly penalties, and try to match them in the game they play."
Du Plessis suggested the Bulls play a "simple, but effective" game – with accuracy in executing the game plan the key.
"They don't really differ too much in their approach, but what they do bring is world-class forward play, world-class phase play and world-class accuracy," the Sharks front row forward said.
"Just matching them physically won't win you the game, you've got to be accurate as well.
"They are not second on the log for nothing, that sort of experience they've had in pressure situations is something they fall back on.
"The challenge for us is to be accurate and disciplined.
"The Bulls do play a very physical game, but they are a finished product and they don't just bring that to the table. They are very accurate and can handle playing under pressure – they have been under pressure at times this season, but they've still managed to come out on tops."
Du Plessis said that while a team like the Blues are opportunists, the Bulls are far more clinical in the way they dismantle the opposition.
"The Blues look to play more off turn-overs, whereas you can expect a territory-based game from the Bulls.
"They [the Bulls] will try to suffocate and strangle you.
"I think our biggest challenge this week is to handle the pressure they are going to put us under."
Although the Sharks have only a remote chance of reaching the play-offs, their fate is reliant on the outcome of other fixtures, the men from Durban are determined to keep that dream alive.
There certainly won't be any favours for the Bulls.
"What I've learnt in Super Rugby is that the competition is not won in the first 10 weeks, it's won in the last five weeks," Du Plessis said, adding: "Some might have thought that we'd be out of it by now because of some disappointing results that we've had, and we have felt that we've underachieved. But there is still a flicker of hope and this is effectively a knockout game.
"The Bulls will want to win because they want home ground advantage in the play-offs, which they've worked the whole season for. But we are playing for our own survival, so the 22 guys that go up to Pretoria will play to keep that flicker of hope alive."