Pretoria - Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar says it is crucial that his side win their Currie Cup match against the Golden Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
With fewer teams in this year’s competition and thus fewer matches to contest for the title, each game has become important to win, Pienaar said.
“We knew it would be a tough competition because there wouldn’t be an easy weekend,” Pienaar said at the team announcement in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Like most of the teams in the Currie Cup, the Blue Bulls have been inconsistent in the first half of this year’s competition.
The Pretoria-based side was demolished by Western Province in their encounter in Cape Town last weekend.
The team showed true grit just a week before to beat the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld following a week where half of the Blue Bulls side was struck down by flu in their build-up to the match.
Pienaar was reluctant to offer any excuses and said they could not afford anymore debilitating losses like the one they suffered against Western Province.
“It is our fault and we dropped our supporters last weekend against WP and we’ve been that position before where we had to fight our way out of a hole,” he said.
“There will come a time where you will say listen we don’t have any more games left.
He said the Lions were in a similar position as the Bulls which upped the stakes for this weekend’s encounter.
“Both teams lost the weekend before and it doesn’t matter whether it is home or a way, both teams have their backs against the wall,” Pienaar said.
“The important thing this weekend is that we do well and it would be the same message Ackers (Lions coach Johan Ackermann) would give to the Lions.” Pienaar said he still believed that his team would be able to turn the corner and had faith in the team that lost against Province.
“I really believe in this team and that is why I didn’t make a lot of changes, I have faith in the players,” he said.
“The week before the team showed what they can do after a difficult week.
“It is important that you have faith in what you do and believe in the structures.
“It worked for us in the past and it will work again.” He made two changes to his starting team with flanker Warwick Tecklenburg replacing the injured Deon Stegmann in the only forced change to the side that lost to Western Province last weekend.
Francois Venter returns to inside centre after he was withdrawn at the eleventh hour from last week's team.
He was replaced on short notice by Jan Serfontein, who returns to the Under-21 squad.
Bongi Mbonambi replaces Robbie Coetzee as back-up hooker after recovering from an ankle injury, while Jean Cook fills in for Tecklenburg on the bench.
Blue Bulls team: Clayton Blommetjies, Akona Ndungane, Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, JJ Engelbrecht, Louis Fouche, Ruan Snyman, Dewald Potgieter (captain), CJ Stander, Warwick Tecklenburg, Grant Hattingh, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Werner Kruger, Willie Wepener, Dawie Steyn.
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Frik Kirsten, Cornell Hess, Jean Cook, Rudy Paige, Lionel Cronje, Jürgen Visser.