Bulls face tough home assignment

Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke. Picture Credit: Gallo Images

Having won their first match of the season, the Blue Bulls will still have to silence their critics with a victory over log leaders Western Province at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

Coach Frans Ludeke believes the Bulls have turned a corner since they suffered a crushing 41-17 defeat against Province in Cape Town a fortnight ago.

"The main thing that cost us in the last few weeks is the urgency and the work rate, and then the accuracy with that," Ludeke said after his team suffered two massive defeats and scraped past the Eastern Province Kings over the weekend.

"We've had a lot of opportunities -- we had field position and possession against Western Province last time -- but we weren't accurate enough."

Meanwhile, Ludeke made four changes to their run-on side with the 20-year-old Joshua Stander set to make his debut as the starting flyhalf if Jacques-Louis Potgieter does not recover in time from a rib injury.

The position was vacated by Tony Jantjies, who is suffering from concussion, while Piet van Zyl will play in Rudi Paige's place as scrumhalf.

The other two changes to the starting XV see Callie Visagie move into the run-on side with Bongi Mbonambi shifting to the bench, while prop Werner Kruger comes in for Springbok call-up Marcel van der Merwe.

Ludeke said while he may sound like a broken record harping on about the team's lack of accuracy, there was no other way to describe what was plaguing the side.

"You need to be accurate and you need to execute, and it is a process where there is no quick fix to it," Ludeke said.

"We feel that we are on top of it, improving each week and that is why we scored four tries. Maybe this is our weekend."

Bulls captain Deon Stegmann conceded that the pressure was on his side as home victories were crucial.

"There is huge pressure -- every game in this Currie Cup will have a lot of pressure. It is a sprint with only 12 games and you need to be at your best the whole time," Stegmann said.

He said his side preferred the underdog tag as he believed this lowered the pressure somewhat.

"Province are really a quality side and we are looking forward to a huge game this weekend, especially with the confidence they've taken from the last few weeks," he said.

"We are looking forward to the contest and luckily we are at home, but we know it is going to be tough. Most of the time it is a good thing to be the underdog as there is a lot less pressure on you and I think Province is seen as the better side following recent good performances."

Blue Bulls team: Jesse Kriel, Akona Ndungane, William Small-Smith, Burger Odendaal, Sampie Mastriet, Jacques-Louis Potgieter/Joshua Stander, Piet van Zyl, Jono Ross, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann (captain), Grant Hattingh, Paul Willemse, Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling.

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Hencus van Wyk, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Jacques Engelbrecht, Rudi Paige, Tian Schoeman, Ryan Nell.