In a season where there has been more talking than action, Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar will again find himself occupied with more thinking than doing ahead of their crucial Currie Cup encounter against the Golden Lions on Saturday.
There is no doubt that the planning from this week forward should be so meticulous that nothing must be left to chance for the Bulls as they need to win all their remaining matches if they are to stand a chance of qualifying for the semifinals.
Their team should be afforded as much time on the training field as possible, trying to eradicate the silly errors that have crept into their game from the beginning of the season and have cost them valuable league points.
It is that time on the field that Pienaar will have to manage carefully this week with injuries to consider and the return of players certain to force about a few changes to the team to face the Lions.
Change was always going to happen within the Bulls team after their disappointing loss against Western Province and Pienaar could be forced to make a late change with flyhalf Handré Pollard in doubt for the game at Ellis Park after twisting his ankle at training on Monday.
Tony Jantjies, who has started four games for the Bulls this season, will be on standby and if Pollard fails to regain fitness at the end of the week then Jantjies will be at No10, facing big brother Elton in the Lions team. “For the time being Handré is out after twisting an ankle at training but we will wait until Friday to see if he can still make it,”said Pienaar yesterday.
Springbok wing Bjorn Basson looks set to start at wing in place of Sampie Mastriet while the fit-again Morné Mellett is also likely to start in place of Marcel van der Merwe and Werner Kruger on the tighthead in place of Frik Kirsten as the Bulls look to re-establish their scrum after a poor outing against Western Province.
Pienaar, though, has urged his team to eradicate their mistakes and focus on reversing the 62-23 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Lions in the first round of the competition.
“Everyone knows that we need to focus on the Lions. The guys saw their mistakes after that game and we know that they played off those mistakes. We know if we play to our structure then we can put any team in the competition under pressure. That was evident in the 50 minutes of the Lions game. It all came down to those mistakes and we must learn to control them, especially the broken field play which will happen in any game,” said Pienaar.
While the Bulls have seemingly identified the weaknesses to their game, the question beckons whether they can quickly rectify them within a week and turn around their dire situation.
“We are making the same mistakes. It has nothing to do with inexperience but it is the management of the whole side. It is a fine line that we need to cross. At the same time I don’t want players not to play their natural game and take responsibility for their decisions,” said Pienaar.
“The message this week is that we all know that we are in a tight spot but we are also in the same boat as everyone else because we need to win all our games from now on. This year’s competition is very close and when you get the opportunity, you must capitalise on it.” - The Star