The Bulls will look to the renewed energy levels in the camp after the bye week to help maintain the momentum they gained before the break when they take on the Western Force in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Bulls started the campaign with two losses at home in Pretoria but then beat the Sharks and the Cheetahs over the next fortnight to put themselves in the top eight on the log and six points behind the Conference-leading Stormers, with a game in hand.
The Force are the last Australian team to win in the capital, and even though that was way back in 2007, the Perth-based side have traditionally been the toughest of foes for the Bulls to see off, with the average score being 25-22.
“We always seem to be in tight matches against each other. The trick for us will be to play the big moments better and to execute whenever we create scoring opportunities.
“We’ve been quite lucky with our draw, I think the bye came at the right time for us, the week off was very good and the guys have come back energised,” captain Pierre Spies said this week.
The Force come to South Africa in not the best frame of mind, the epic bonus-point win over the defending champion Waratahs in the opening round being followed by four successive defeats, and the coach, Michael Foley, has shuffled the backline, with former Free Stater Sias Ebersohn starting at flyhalf.
The match also marks the return of reserve lock Wilhelm Steenkamp to the place where it all began for the 30-year-old, back in 2005.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has called for more accuracy in implementing the basic but effective game plan he sponsors.
“The accuracy suddenly changed, then the belief came, and with that the momentum came as well. We would like to continue with what made us a dangerous side before the break, getting into the right areas, converting that opportunity, accuracy on defence and squeezing opportunities, and hopefully winning that field-position battle,” Ludeke said.
Bulls: 15-Jesse Kriel, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Rudy Paige, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Grant Hattingh, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Marcel van der Merwe, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Dean Greyling. Replacements – 16-Jaco Visagie, 17-Morne Mellett, 18-Trevor Nyakane, 19-Victor Matfield, 20-Arno Botha, 21-Tian Schoeman, 22-Piet van Zyl, 23-Jurgen Visser.
Western Force: 15-Luke Morahan, 14-Marcel Brache, 13-Kyle Godwin, 12-Luke Burton, 11-Nick Cummins, 10-Sias Ebersohn, 9-Alby Mathewson, 8-Ben McCalman, 7-Kane Koteka, 6-Steve Mafi, 5-Adam Coleman, 4-Sam Wykes, 3-Tetera Faulkner, 2-Nathan Charles, 1-Pek Cowan. Replacements – 16-Heath Tessmann, 17-Chris Heiberg, 18-Oli Hoskins, 19-Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20-Angus Cottrell, 21-Ian Prior, 22-Zack Holmes, 23-Junior Rasolea.