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Bulls captain Pierre Spies might have to take a leaf out of the past in order to inspire his team to victory in their do-or-die Super Rugby clash against the Lions, thereby ensuring their passage into the lucrative play-offs.
By his own admission, Spies is a far cry from legendary former captain Victor Matfield who led the Bulls to three Super Rugby titles.
There is, however, plenty that Spies will incorporate from Matfield’s soul-moving team talk prior to that famous 92-3 win over the Reds in 2007 to ensure the Bulls a home semi-final.
It was in that final league match of 2007 that the Bulls needed what seemed an insurmountable 78-point win to ensure a home semi-final and that is when Matfield stepped up to lead his team from the front. They not only pulled off the impossible victory but went on to win their first Super Rugby title.
While many have been apprehensive to pass judgment so early in Spies’ tenure as Bulls skipper, there will be much focus on how Spies leads the team on Saturday and ultimately it will be the yardstick used to measure him against Matfield and previous Bulls captains.
But more importantly, it will be Spies’ leadership that will determine the Bulls’ fate after the disaster of losing to the Sharks in Durban last week. “It was great to achieve the 92 points that day but this is five years on and the game and set-up at the Bulls is different,” said Spies.
“We’re well-prepared and hungry to get the result on Saturday,” said Spies. “The way I lead the team will involve a bit of everything including looking at the past. I learnt a lot from the way Victor and Fourie du Preez led the team and this season is also a learning curve for us as a team.
“We have grown as a unit and even from the defeat against the Sharks we learnt and we are still learning.”
The Bulls’ road to the play-offs is clear in terms of what is required of them. Victory with a bonus point will see them through and even though there are a handful of permutations which could change the equation by the 7pm kick-off at Loftus Versfeld, it remains imperative they show that they can be successful beyond the wild card stage of the play-offs and into the semi-finals.
“It is our vision to make the play-offs, it’s do-able. We are on our way but there is still a lot of hard work to be done. We can’t be looking at next week or what might happen on Saturday,” said Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
Yesterday, Ludeke did the predictable by naming a team with only one change forced by the injury to Springbok Flip van der Merwe who will be replaced by Wilhelm Steenkamp in the second row while Springbok Deon Stegmann comes in on the bench.
Bulls starting XV: Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Mornè Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (capt), Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Juandrè Kruger, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Deon Stegmann, CJ Stander, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouchè, Francois Venter.