Johannesburg – The Currie Cup match between the Blue Bulls and Griquas in Kimberley on Friday may be billed as the battle of the bottom feeders, but both sides still have a mathematical chance of reaching the playoffs.
However, with only three rounds left in the league phase, a defeat for either side could deal a death blow to their chances.
The Blue Bulls, currently in fifth place on the log with 11 points, were one point above the Griquas, languishing in sixth place on 10 points – lying five and six points, respectively, behind the fourth-placed Cheetahs.
The Light Blues would be looking to take maximum points out of the match to stay in the running, and coach Pine Pienaar believed his side had the ability to do just that.
“We've shown in a few games, including last weekend against the Lions, we are able to put ourselves in a position to score four tries,” Pienaar said.
“The few games where we struggled, we didn't have a great start. So we need to focus on getting a good start against Griquas.”
While the Bulls were beaten 35-26 in their match against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg last weekend, they managed to score four tries despite having two players yellow-carded in the first half.
Playing Griquas in the hostile Kimberley conditions would be an entirely different story, with the Northern Cape side desperate to break their six-match losing streak.
While the Peacock Blues had not won a match since their season opener against the Sharks, they could count themselves unlucky with a few matches going down to the wire.
They were fresh off a tight 19-13 defeat to Western Province last weekend after losing by one point against the log-leading Sharks in Kimberley two weeks ago.
Pienaar said while his charges demonstrated that they could score tries, they had to make the step-up in defence.
“I want a better defensive effort from the guys and our set pieces put us under massive pressure against the Lions,” he said.
“We know we are in a position where we have to score four tries. The biggest thing is that we know, it will sort itself out if we play better rugby, keep the ball longer in hand and work harder to recycle it.”
Bulls' heavyweights Werner Kruger and David Bulbring would likely be used as battering rams against the Kimberley outfit and Pienaar said they had worked hard in training to improve the situation.
"Our biggest concern over the last couple of weeks were our ball carriers who didn't do their jobs properly, Pienaar said.
"We struggled to get over the advantage line and, in many instances, we lost possession. If you keep the ball in hand it makes it much more difficult for the opposing team's poachers to get their hands on the ball and, hopefully, it is something we've sorted out during the week."
Griquas coach Pote Human said he believed his team was still in with a chance and they would not lie down and die too easily.
"We will be out to give the Bulls a very hard time," Human said.
"We are still very much in it, even though the promotion and relegation games have become a hot topic.
"We still believe that we are in with a shot and thus will give everything to make the final four."
Both sides traditionally try and dominate with their forward pack before giving their back line good front foot ball.
"We favour an approach with our forwards and guys like Marnus Schoeman and Rory Arnold will be key in helping us going forward," he said.
"If we do manage to get our possession quick and clean our back line will definitely use that to their advantage.” – Sapa