Pretoria – The Blue Bulls face an uphill challenge in reaching the Currie Cup playoffs, and coach Pine Pienaar says they will go for broke in their crucial last-round clash against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
“Just a win will not be sufficient and we have to go out and score four tries, but it is a matter of how you approach the game to score those four tries,” Pienaar said at the team announcement in Pretoria on Wednesday.
“The biggest challenge will be that the Cheetahs know they only need that one bonus point, so we are not in control of their approach.”
Pienaar named possibly his strongest team for the season and included Springbok centres Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht in the starting XV.
They replace William Small-Smith and Francois Venter, who move to the Blue Bulls under-21 side, and to the bench, respectively.
The Bok duo would form a midfield combination, while Serfontein would have his flyhalf from the 2012 Junior World Championship winning Under-20 Springboks, Handre Polllard on his inside.
Pienaar opted for a loose trio consisting of strong ball carriers, promoting Jacques Engelbrecht to the run-on side as eighthman, with regular number eight and captain Jono Ross moving to the side of the scrum.
Openside flanker Wiaan Liebenberg had been released to captain the under-21 side.
The Bulls were further strengthened by the return of fit-again Jean Cook, who would play off the bench.
Other changes to the replacements included Werner Kruger, who replaced Dean Greyling, and Clayton Blommetjies, who would come in for Ulrich Beyers.
Pienaar said it was crucial to make a positive start to the match and cut out soft moments in defence against a dangerous, attacking Cheetahs side.
“We’ve got to make sure that we have a great start. All the games the Cheetahs have played in, they had great starts and put the other sides under pressure,” he said.
“You don’t want to go into the change room at half-time and you are 12 points behind, so it is how we control the game.
“We know we can’t let the opposition get a bonus point so, defence-wise, we have to be up for a massive challenge.”
The Light Blues mentor said the return of hooker Adriaan Strauss and prop Coenie Oosthuizen from the Springboks would give the Cheetahs an extra edge in the set-pieces.
Pienaar warned his team would have to be accurate with their set-pieces, particularly in the lineouts, a facet they battled with against the Sharks in Pretoria last weekend.
“We’ve got to try and disrupt their set-pieces. You can have great backs and a lot of flair in your team, but if you don’t get the ball to them then they are pretty much useless.
“We have to make sure our forwards match up and they have guys back like Coenie (Oosthuizen) and Atter (Strauss), and just those two will have a huge influence on their pack of forwards.”
Cheetahs team: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Handre Pollard, Rudy Paige, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross (captain), David Bullbring, Paul Willemse, Frik Kirsten, Bongi Mbonambi, Marcel van der Merwe. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Jean Cook, Lohan Jacobs, Francois Venter, Clayton Blommetjies. – Sapa