Cape Town The Bulls might be confident of claiming a Currie Cup home semi-final, but there is also the more important quest of getting their squad ready for the United Rugby Championship playoffs.
The Pretoria side lead the Currie Cup standings on 32 points from eight matches, but the second-placed Cheetahs have a game in hand and trail by just a lone point.
Gert Smal’s team will face giant-killers Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (5pm kickoff), and will want to secure top spot on the log over the last four league encounters.
Jake White’s URC side are currently on a break until they take on the Ospreys in Swansea on May 20, and they will want to claim a bonus-point victory to finish as high as possible to get a more favourable quarter-final draw.
White has suggested that some of his URC players will bolster the Currie Cup side against Griquas and in next week’s clash against the Lions.
But the Bulls’ URC hopes may be better served by their regular starting line-up resting over this fortnight, in order to be fresh for the closing stages of the competition.
Here are five players who need game-time against Griquas on Saturday, though, to be sharp for the URC side…
The nippy scrumhalf has been a breath of fresh air every time he takes to the field, whether it has been for the Currie Cup or URC team. Johannes’ slick service from the base and his ability to snipe around the fringes make him a valuable asset. White prefers the more experienced Embrose Papier and Zak Burger, but Johannes must be ready in case of an injury.
White will hope that the lanky lock has recovered from a head knock to face Griquas. He was one of the stars of the Currie Cup triumphs over the last two seasons, but has missed out on URC starts following the arrival of Walt Steenkamp from the Cheetahs.
But Swanepoel is a classy lineout jumper and has a high work-rate around the field, and could make a serious impact off the bench for the URC outfit.
The former Lions loosehead prop has begun his transition to tighthead since joining the Bulls a few weeks ago, and is a work in progress. White rates him highly, so the more time in the saddle on the right-hand side of the scrum, the better. And the Griquas pack never takes a backward step in the set-pieces, so it is the ideal test for Smith.
The young flyhalf hasn’t had too many opportunities this season, but if anything had to happen to Chris Smith or Morné Steyn, he is the next-in-line at No 10 and must get minutes under his belt against Griquas.
The double Currie Cup-winning fullback seems to have fallen out of favour this season, although one can’t argue that Kurt-Lee Arendse has been a revelation at No 15.
But Kriel is able to operate at outside centre and even flyhalf as well, so he should get a run in the Currie Cup side in case of injuries.