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Pretoria – Going into an expected bruising encounter against the Sharks, opposition players of any team facing the side from Durban have to be at their best and preparations for the clash, top notch.
But that has not been the case for the Blue Bulls team, who had 11 players struck down by a mysterious flu virus since Tuesday, forcing team training to be cancelled on the day.
There was even talk of a request being made by the Bulls to the South African Rugby Union for a postponement of the Currie Cup clash against Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night. However, talk of a postponement was dismissed on Wednesday with Bulls coach Pine Pienaar announcing his strongest available squad. A signal that the Bulls will be ready for battle.
Speaking at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville, where the team was conducting a coaching clinic and the squad for Saturday was announced on Wednesday, Pienaar, himself struck down flu, jokingly said he would have to ‘be six feet under’ before he missed a training session.
“I would have to be in my grave before I miss a training session,” said the Bulls coach, who described the prevailing state of event at the Bulls as unique to him, but he also stressed that the team had to try and make the best out of a tough situation. It’s still a challenge we have 11 players that are still sick today (yesterday) so we will see how many players are up and about tomorrow. And then we can make a decision who is going to play at weekend.”
I have never been involved in a side where we have got so many guys struck down by flu. So yes it’s a new challenge but we have to step up and make the best of it.”
Pienaar’s support team backline coach Pieter Rossouw, manager Wynie Strydom and team doctor Org Strauss were also struck by flu. While preparations for the match against the unbeaten Sharks haven’t been ideal for the Bulls, Pienaar was confident that whoever is selected for the starting 15 and the seven bench players would put their best foot forward against their opponents.
“I think if everybody is healthy and everybody is fit, I know they will give 100%. Hopefully everybody can recover from the flu and we will see what they can do on Saturday,” said Pienaar, who alluded to the fact that his players will face a difficult task in trying to beat the Durbanites, but he was not about to become a man resigned to defeat without a ball being kicked.
And instead Pienaar encouraged his players to give their all come match day, despite the adversity they have been faced with in the past few days.
“We haven’t had training at all this week so it’s going to be difficult, it’s more a matter of just getting mentally focused. So if we can pitch on Saturday and not make that many mistakes that we made against the (Free State) Cheetahs. We will be at Loftus. It will be our home game and our home field so we have to make ourselves proud and make our supporters proud.”
Some critics may have written off the Bulls’ chances of beating the Sharks on Saturday, but Pienaar believes the key to overcoming their table topping opponents is sticking to the basics of the game.
“The bottom line is if you make too many mistakes against the Sharks they will punish you. They are a quality side, if we keep our discipline intact as well, that’s something we have to look at as well and if we can put them under pressure and defend well, I think that’s one thing we have to do,” said Pienaar.
Bulls skipper Dewald Potgieter, who missed the clash against Cheetahs and was one of the players that didn’t escape the flu bug, was included in the starting XV after recovering from a thigh contusion on his right leg and Arno Botha also found his way to the bench after recovering from a hamstring on his right leg. Centre Johann Sadie, who is on his way to the Cheetahs, will make his first start for Bulls in the clash against Sharks. – Pretoria News