Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer may have joked that he will have his eyes shut during the derby between the Bulls and Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday and Meyer might just have to tighten them because the Bulls have promised to hold nothing back.
This sold-out affair and top of the conference clash to be played out in the capital city will have little consideration for Meyer and his plans for the first Test against England according to Bulls captain Pierre Spies.
While the minds of many of South Africa’s rugby mad population are already debating about the make up of Meyer’s first Springbok squad, the Bulls have put national team issues on the backburner and are determined to topple the Stormers off their perch in the South African conference and go into the three week Test window on top.
“As a group we are only focussing on our game at hand and not even spending any time talking about the Springboks,” said Spies at Wednesday’s team announcement.
“That is an issue that we will only look at after we have played the Stormers.
“It is understandable why Heyneke will shut his eyes tight for this game but that is something we have no control over.
“Personally as individuals and as a team, we are motivated to play well and try get the win, that is all that matters to us,” said Spies.
Meyer would have cringed further yesterday when he realised that all of the players he will be looking to ahead of the first Test against England in Durban will better each other from the beginning of this highly anticipated north versus south derby as the Bulls named a formidable team with Springbok hopefuls Juandre Kruger and JJ Engelbrecht returning to the Bulls starting line-up.
Kruger and Engelbrecht have been elevated from the bench with Wilhelm Steenkamp dropping to the bench while centre Johann Sadie has been dropped out of the match 22.
The Bulls had little choice but to start with Kruger who is their strongest line-out component and he was expected to compete with Stormers and Springbok lock Andries Bekker, who will miss the game due to injury.
Engelbrecht is the beneficiary of Sadie’s erratic form this season and even though Bulls coach Frans Ludeke masked the change as “rotational”, Engelbrecht has shown enough with ball in hand this season to see that he can be a matchwinner and that his inclusion will be a source of concern for the Stormers defence.
Bulls flank Dewald Potgieter will earn his 50th Super Rugby cap and together with the hype and enormity of this game should be the catalyst for Potgieter to fight for a return into the national team after nearly a two year absence.
“It is another great occasion for Dewald and he really deserves it.
“He is a great guy and we are happy for him,” said the Bulls captain. – The Star