When the Blue Bulls hammered Western Province 47-29 at Loftus Versfeld nearly two months ago, they used a ball-in-hand approach, clever attacking innovations and pace and intensity, and coach Nollis Marais wants them to use the same strategy in their Currie Cup semi-final in Pretoria on Friday night.
“We wanted to do things differently, we weren’t looking at a semi-final or a final back then, we were just starting a new culture at the Blue Bulls. We’ve worked hard and now the guys must just play. They must believe in themselves and believe in what we do. They’ve all had a season behind them now and we’re good enough to beat any team. Being young is not an escape clause, the guys must just go out and play,” Marais said.
For Western Province coach John Dobson, the way the Bulls used the restart that day has been a major concern.
“We were beaten on the short kick-off down the middle. A couple of times we just weren’t watching and then it’s Game Over. There was just general sloppiness that day. We have to make sure we don’t get caught in the middle and when we receive the restart the clearance has got to be beyond our own 10m line or else the Bulls will just maul you.
“So we’ve had to change our strategy considerably, in terms of how we set up. We weren’t blocking properly, we were leaving Robert du Preez [flyhalf] stranded deep in the pocket. It was a massive issue for us and we had to change the plan,” Dobson said.
Western Province will no doubt want to use their powerful, more experienced pack to grind down the Bulls.
“Last time we played the Bulls [a 29-14 home win at Newlands a month ago] our pack was fairly well on top and if we can do that again then we are going to stop them from playing Bulls rugby, force them into a more open game, and then the mistakes are going to come and we can put pressure on them. Maybe we can force them to run when they don’t have numbers, we see opportunity in that,” Dobson said.
“That was probably our worst game of the season,” Marais said of the Cape Town loss, “because our set-pieces just didn’t work. So it was the first time we were really under pressure, but we still twice lost the ball over the tryline, so we were competitive. We’re better prepared up front than we were then.”