The Vodacom Bulls may have been superb in claiming the big scalp of the Crusaders last weekend, but they know it will be an error to expect Saturday’s SuperRugby match against the Emirates Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg to be any easier.
It is, of course, a local derby that will always get the blood pumping on both sides, plus the Lions have been playing with an enormous unity of purpose and will be able to draw on the confidence of a record-breaking three wins on tour, while there should be a sizeable home crowd to welcome them home.
“It would be wrong to think it’s going to be an easier game this weekend. The Lions have shown how good they are, it’s never easy winning three games on tour. They will play for the full 80 minutes, they’re fit and well-coached and they will obviously get up for this game because they’ll want to start their home stretch of matches well,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies warned.
Coach Frans Ludeke was also stressing that his team cannot afford any drop in intensity from last weekend.
“We’ve had a very good week of preparation just to add to what we did against the Crusaders, so we’re high in confidence and things are working well. But against the Lions, we will definitely need to match that performance against the Crusaders,” Ludeke said.
Spies called for his team to be clinical in using whatever opportunities they get, and Ludeke has also ensured there are no oversights in selection by choosing another specialist openside flank on the bench in Roelof Smit, against a Lions team that will almost certainly play a high-tempo game and target the Bulls’ breakdown.
Much will also depend on which tighthead – Trevor Nyakane or Ruan Dreyer – gets the upperhand in the scrums because that is such an important set-piece, especially for a team like the Bulls that will use the penalties from there to further their territory game or set up their lineout maul.
Ludeke was full of praise for the way Nyakane has not only adapted to his move from the Cheetahs but also switched to the other side of the scrum during his first three months at Loftus Versfeld. Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will also be smiling because he now has Marcel van der Merwe or Nyakane as quality back-up for Jannie du Plessis.
“His first-choice position is loosehead, but we had a lot of injuries at tighthead and he has really come through and done a job for us. He’s adding a lot, and a lot more than just scrummaging which is what we’re going to need this weekend.
“The national coach knows what he has in Trevor, he can play loosehead or tighthead, which makes it easy for a coach. Trevor now knows where he wants to go in his career,” Ludeke said.
The omission of Marnitz Boshoff from the starting line-up suggests the Lions are, perhaps unlike the Bulls, targeting tries rather than penalties, but whether they can absorb the pressure from an in-your-face Bulls defence will determine whether they can make inroads on attack or succumb to the errors that undid the Crusaders last weekend.
The Lions may have sometimes been negligent in terms of their own defence in the past, but that aspect of their game was outstanding on tour and coach Johan Ackermann is hoping that continues.
“We’ve put a lot of effort and commitment into our defence, that’s what kept us in the game quite often on tour. We weren’t really able to get our attacking game going, but hopefully at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon we’ll see better rugby on the attacking side. But defence must come with that and if we win the game because of a big tackle, I’ll definitely take that,” Ackermann said.
Lions: 15-Andries Coetzee, 14-Ruan Combrinck, 13-Lionel Mapoe, 12-Harold Vorster, 11-Anthony Volmink, 10-Elton Jantjies, 9-Ross Cronje, 8-Warren Whiteley, 7-Warwick Tecklenburg, 6-Derick Minnie, 5-Franco Mostert, 4-Andries Ferreira, 3-Ruan Dreyer, 2-Robbie Coetzee, 1-Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements – 16-Armand van der Merwe, 17-Corne Fourie, 18-Julian Redelinghuys, 19-Robert Kruger, 20-Jaco Kriel, 21-Faf de Klerk, 22-Marnitz Boshoff, 23-Howard Mnisi.
Bulls: 15-Jesse Kriel, 14-Francois Hougaard, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Burger Odendaal, 11-Bjorn Basson, 10-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9-Rudy Paige, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Hanro Liebenberg, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Grant Hattingh, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Trevor Nyakane, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Dean Greyling. Replacements: 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Morné Mellet, 18-Marcel van der Merwe, 19-Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20-Roelof Smit, 21-Piet van Zyl, 22-Tian Schoeman, 23-Jurgen Visser.