PRETORIA – In an ideal world, teams win championships but in the case of the Blue Bulls’ semi-final encounter against Western Province, there will have to be a handful of individuals who will have to carry their team to an unlikely victory at Newlands.
The Bulls have admittedly taken collective responsibility for the hammering they received at the hands of the very same Western Province last weekend, but more so the individual accountability of their Springbok stars.
On Saturday, at a hostile Newlands and against an unbeaten and on song Province outfit, it will be up to the much heralded men within the Bulls team to show leadership in their positions and in galvanising the team to produce the biggest upset of this year’s domestic season.
Last weekend in the driving rain and unfamiliar conditions at Loftus, the Bulls were bullied in the scrums, looked fragile in the lineouts, were overpowered at the breakdown and failed to play any sensible rugby that were suitable to the conditions.
Now it will be up to the likes of Boks Trevor Nyakane, Marco van Staden, Ivan van Zyl and standout individuals Manie Libbok to guide their team in achieving “mission impossible” and getting to within a game of bringing back Currie Cup glory to Loftus after a nine-year drought.
Arguably the most versatile prop in South African rugby and equally competent at loosehead and tighthead. Nyakane has been plunged into the role of a tighthead in the past two years and has done exceptionally well having played most of his career at loosehead.
After last weekend’s scrum annihilation at the hands of the WP front row anchored by Bok prop Wilco Louw, Nyakane will have to be the heart of the engine on Saturday. It will come as no surprise if Nyakane switches back to loosehead after the injury to Matthys Basson which will make for a mouth-watering duel against Louw.
The Zimbabwean-born giant has long been touted as a future star and in the absence of more formidable names like RG Snyman, Lood de Jager and Jason Jenkins, now is his time to make a name for himself.
Snyman’s job won’t be easy against the much vaunted WP second-row combination of Chris van Zyl and JD Schickerling, but if there ever was a time for Snyman to prove himself then it will be against the best in the domestic game. Snyman will not only have to call the lineouts, but he will have to flex his muscles in the tight loose as well.
Marco van Staden
A one-of-a-kind loose forward who is not only a menacing presence at the points of breakdown, but is also a powerful ball carrier and a devastating tackler. Along with his teammates, Van Staden drowned in last weekend’s encounter at Loftus, but will have to front up to the physical might of the fine WP loose trio.
Key to doing this will be the tight five that needs an improved performance from Saturday’s shambolic showing. Van Staden will have to play out of his skin when dealing with the breakdown threat that invariably comes with the WP unit.
Ivan van Zyl
Van Zyl was rendered invalid by his absent pack last week, but he needs to show why coach Pote Human trusts him ahead of Embrose Papier. Van Zyl has the requisite experience to start ahead of Papier, but Van Zyl was thoroughly outplayed by Herschel Jantjies.
How Van Zyl plays will be crucial to his backs’ hopes even though he is not responsible for the quality of the ball.
Whether it was unfair of Human to haul off Libbok early in the game will remain to be seen, but any No 10 would have struggled in last Saturday’s conditions. Libbok was clearly overawed by the opposition and the conditions, but the quality of the young pivot shouldn’t be in doubt. Again the quality of his performance will be dictated by the quality of the ball from the forwards and the service from Van Zyl.
The forwards need to front up if they want Libbok to rock.