Rugby 27.2.2015 02:27 pm

Victory all that matters for Bulls

FILE PICTURE: Nardus van der Walt of Blue Bulls tackled by Lizo Gqoboka of Eastern Province Kings during the Vodacom Cup Quarter Final match between Vodacom Blue Bulls and Eastern Province Kings at Loftus Versveld on May 04, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

FILE PICTURE: Nardus van der Walt of Blue Bulls tackled by Lizo Gqoboka of Eastern Province Kings during the Vodacom Cup Quarter Final match between Vodacom Blue Bulls and Eastern Province Kings at Loftus Versveld on May 04, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Two consecutive home defeats have left the Bulls spending considerable time on introspection but a victory over the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday would remedy their ailing campaign.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke lamented his side’s inability to capitalise on scoring opportunities and expected improved accuracy against the Sharks, who notched up their first victory over the Lions in Durban last week.

“The vital thing this weekend is just to focus on ourselves. In a lot of ways we lost against ourselves last weekend,” Ludeke said.

“All teams are giving away some turnovers because it is early season, but ours were vital turnovers — on attack in the 22, losing at the breakdown and losing vital lineouts in good positions.”

The Light Blues made one change to the team with Rudy Paige handed the scrumhalf berth in the place of Piet van Zyl.

The hosts have been uncharacteristically poor in their set-pieces this season, with the scrum receiving added attention ahead of the match.

The Bulls’ scrum will be propped up by the return of Marcel van der Merwe and the inclusion of Dean Greyling as front-row cover against powerful Sharks siblings hooker Bismarck and prop Jannie du Plessis.

While a full strength Sharks side pose a serious threat to any side, Bulls captain Pierre Spies said a tough local derby could be the right remedy to shake his side out of their slumber.

“When South Africa teams play each other, they bring the best out of each other. Hopefully that will happen this weekend and the guys can get themselves up,” Spies said.

“We really want to get that victory and improve on last week’s performance, so it is a great opportunity against the Sharks.”

While the Bulls have already wasted home-ground advantage with defeats to the Stormers and the Hurricanes, they would be desperate for a victory before their first away match.

Last year the Pretoria side went unbeaten at home while they lost all of their matches on the road — a statistic they would have to reverse if they wanted to have any chance of competing for the title.

If history between these two sides is anything to go by, the statistics favour the Bulls with the last Sharks victory at Loftus dating back to 2011.

The coastal side have won at Loftus Versfeld four times out of 11 visits, with one match drawn.

They have included eighthman Ryan Kankowski and Junior Springbok Andre Esterhuizen at centre for Saturday’s clash.

Sharks Assistant coach Paul Anthony said his charges took responsibility for their defeat against the Cheetahs in the first round and were looking to make a further step-up following a win over the Lions.

“The players knew they weren’t on par in their first game and were disappointed with themselves,” Anthony said.

“But they all lifted their performances markedly and we’re hoping to lift it even more, game by game.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Citizen Trail Run 2018

today in print