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Ken Borland

Bulls still in search of perfect game as they enter business end of URC

Posted on May 20, 2022 by Ken

The Bulls are still in search of the perfect game as they enter the business end of the United Rugby Championship, with coach Jake White saying how they complete the last three weeks of round-robin action will define their campaign.

While their opponents on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld, Benetton Treviso, are almost 100% likely to miss out on the playoffs according to the StatMaster possibilities released by the URC on Friday, the importance of the game for the Bulls is shown by the prediction that, if they win, they will be 95% certain of a place in the top eight, while defeat will see their odds plummet from 83% currently to just 60%.

And with a match against the third-placed Glasgow Warriors and then a visit to Ospreys to follow, the Bulls probably can’t afford to let a win slip on Saturday.

“It’s tough for everybody at the back end of the competition,” White said, “in the next three weeks the whole competition can turn on its head. It’s three big games for everyone and then hopefully three more to win the tournament.

“So we are taking nothing for granted, there is still a lot of rugby to be played. You want to be playing your best rugby at the back end of the competition, that’s the way you want to progress, not play your best rugby in the beginning and not make the playoffs.

“We are not where we want to be yet, but against Benetton I want to see continued improvement.

“If we do that then we still control our own destiny in terms of where we end up. We’ve been playing well and we want to build on that,” White said.

The Bulls do not quite have a 100% bill of good health for the game, with powerful inside centre Harold Vorster having tested positive for Covid, but moving to 12 should be water off a duck’s back for Cornal Hendricks, given how he flourished in the position when White moved him there in 2020.

Apart from his attacking prowess, the former Springbok wing is quite happy to get stuck in in defence, never leaving the field with lilywhite shorts.

“Cornal has shown he is very capable of playing inside centre, he was the talk of the town there when Harold arrived at Loftus,” White pointed out. “He can be direct, he’s big and strong.

“The combination with Chris Smith at flyhalf has had lots of game-time and done well. Cornal brings different strengths to Harold and that might be the style we want to play … ”

Although there is a chance of rain on Saturday, it is not going to be the sort of tropical storms that batter Kings Park and White expects altitude to be a worry for the Italians, whatever the weather.

“I’ve heard the weather won’t be that great, but it’s not as if there’s going to be hail or blistering winds. It’s still at high altitude at 2pm, and that will be different to what Benetton are used to.

“We want to play quickly and use the altitude as an advantage, get our tempo and attack going. When we get the ball we want to hang on to it and show our confidence,” White said.

Bulls – Kurt-Lee Arendse,Canan Moodie,Lionel Mapoe,Cornal Hendricks,Madosh Tambwe,Chris Smith,Embrose Papier,Elrigh Louw,Cyle Brink,Marcell Coetzee (CAPT),Ruan Nortje,Walt Steenkamp,Mornay Smith,Johan Grobbelaar,Gerhard Steenekamp. IMPACT:Jan-Hendrik Wessels,Simphiwe Matanzima,Dylan Smith,Janko Swanepoel,Arno Botha,Zak Burger,Morne Steyn,Stedman Gans.

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