Rugby 3.7.2014 01:21 pm

Last-chance saloon for Bulls

Marcell Coetzee of the Sharks during the Super Rugby match between Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on March 22, 2014 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Marcell Coetzee of the Sharks during the Super Rugby match between Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on March 22, 2014 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

With only the narrowest of chances to qualify for the playoffs, the Bulls have selected their strongest possible side for their Super Rugby match against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.

Before the June international break the light blues’ hopes of finishing in the top six were dealt a hefty blow, suffering a defeat to the Lions in Johannesburg.

“It is important for us this weekend to make sure we finish the final two league games on a high note. It means we will have to be accurate if we want the result and we would need a special performance,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said at the team announcement on Thursday.

Ludeke made four changes and a positional switch to the side that went down 32-21 to the Lions at the end of May.

Springbok debutant from the weekend’s Test against Scotland, Handre Pollard would receive a starting berth in the place of Jacques-Louis Potgieter, who shifted to the bench.

Among the forwards, Grant Hattingh switched from lock to eighthman to make way for captain Victor Matfield, while Paul Willemse came in for the injured Flip van der Merwe.

The reshuffled loose trio would consist of Hattingh, Jono Ross and Jacques Engelbrecht, who moved to the side of the scrum as replacement for the injured Jacques du Plessis.

As part of Ludeke’s rotation policy in the front row, Werner Kruger earned a starting berth which saw Marcel van der Merwe shift to the bench.

Lying in 10th place on 33 points, the Bulls had a slight mathematical chance of reaching the playoffs and needed to win their last two round-robin matches with the full complement of points.

Even if they took the full 10 points from the two remaining games, their fate was still out of their hands as results in the other matches could leave them out in the cold.

Matfield, however, said the team needed little motivation when they travelled down to Cape Town to face a resurgent Stormers side.

“If you put on the Bulls jersey there should be purpose. We have a lot of pride and there is a lot of history in the jersey,” Matfield said.

“There is still a small chance and we can only focus on what we can control, and we’ve got an opportunity to maybe still be in the race.

“If we don’t win the game there is nothing for us, so it is a very important game for us.”

The Stormers suffered a 28-12 defeat to the Bulls early in May before they went on a three-match winning streak which included a 21-19 victory over the pace-setting Sharks in the last weekend before the break.

Bulls team: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Handre Pollard, Francois Hougaard, Grant Hattingh, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jono Ross, Victor Matfield (captain), Paul Willemse, Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Marcel van der Merwe, Morne Mellett, Marvin Orie, Roelof Smit, Piet van Zyl, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, William Small-Smith.

– Sapa

 

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