Johannesburg – The Blue Bulls will be in the rare position of underdog when they host Western Province at Loftus Versfeld, in Pretoria on Saturday.
Only a fortnight ago, Province scored a 41-17 victory over the Light Blues in Cape Town. Two weeks in rugby was a long time though, and the Bulls had since claimed their first win of the competition when they beat, albeit rather unconvincingly, the Eastern Province Kings 30-25 at home in Pretoria.
Bulls captain Deon Stegmann said the team had worked hard at rectifying the mistakes they had made against the Capetonians in the first encounter.
“We had a hard look at where we went wrong in the previous game and I think we've addressed some of those problems already against Eastern Province,” Stegmann said.
“This week we also worked hard on some things we thought needed attention and we will be confident going into the weekend.”
However, despite the match being played at Loftus, Province were still firm favourites after three consecutive victories, which included two bonus-point wins.
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee this week banked on a strong bench to counter the effects of altitude to the run-on side.
“We're playing at altitude this week and that can be quite testing. It will be good to call on reserves you can rely on for impact later in the match,” Coetzee said.
“When you're playing the Bulls at Loftus, you need the efforts of everyone in a 22-man squad so that you are giving yourself a good chance of winning the game.”
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke was under increased criticism for his perceived reluctance to move away from a conservative style of play. However, Ludeke insisted they had already made changes during the Super Rugby season and again blamed poor execution for many of their woes.
“We would like to attack with more width and be more positive in our own area, if the situation presents itself,” he said.
“The main things that have cost us in the last couple of weeks have been the urgency, the work rate and the accuracy.
“We had field position and possession against Western Province last time and we were not accurate enough.”
Ludeke was confident all the necessary adjustments had been made, which would avoid a repeat of their previous encounter against the blue-and-white hoops.
“No doubt that Western Province is playing very well and outplayed us in Cape Town a couple of weeks back, but we have turned the corner since then,” Ludeke said ahead of the clash.
“We will be up against it, but there is no reason why we cannot be very competitive.
“We have an experienced pack who will hold their own and the new faces in the backs are all full of attacking potential.” – Sapa