Cape Town – It may have been more than two months ago that the Blue Bulls were stunned by the Griffons in Welkom, but the Pretoria side have not forgotten about it.
In fact, hooker Johan Grobbelaar feels that Jake White’s team “owe them one” in Friday’s Currie Cup encounter at Loftus.
On 31 March in the Northern Free State, the Griffons pulled off a sensational 32-28 victory over the Bulls, and the result had far-reaching consequences, with then-head coach Edgar Marutlulle relieved of his duties and sent back to the junior team, while director of rugby White took on the head-coach role in conjunction with the United Rugby Championship outfit.
It was a tricky balancing act for the former Springbok coach, and now the Bulls are in a situation where they have to win their last two league games to just make the semi-finals – preferably with bonus points.
And that quest starts at Loftus on Friday (5.05pm kickoff). “That one was not the proudest moment for the Bulls – taking the loss there in Welkom. I think we owe them one ... ” Grobbelaar said.
“It was a difficult one to take in Welkom, and it is an unusual picture to see the Bulls losing to the Griffons – so it’s definitely something that we want to set straight.
“But hats off to the Griffons – they’ve really surprised a few teams this season. We are expecting a physical battle … They’re coming direct. They’re coming in the scrums. We’ve done our preparation this week as well as we could.
“We are also fighting for points difference, with two rounds left. We are tied on 31 points with WP and the Lions, so points difference is also a massive factor. We are going for a big win.”
The triumph over the Bulls is the Griffons’ only victory this season, but they have given a number of teams a tough time with a hard-nosed pack spearheaded by giant lock Jaco Willemse and a highly effective backline marshalled by the likes of Jaywinn Juries, Duan Pretorius and powerful centre Marquit September.
The Bulls, though, will be fielding their strongest possible match-23 this time around, with Grobbelaar joined by Springboks such as captain Ruan Nortje, Elrigh Louw and Nizaam Carr upfront, as well as the likes of Embrose Papier and Johan Goosen in the backline.
They have won their last three games away from home against Griquas, the Lions and Pumas, and will be confident of reaching the semis.
“This pack we have, we don’t need to stand back for anyone in world rugby, so I think if we have that mindset, we should be able to take on the Griffons physically – just go hard and direct. And play smart, not play into their big defenders, but move the ball also and just bring a bit of everything on attack,” Grobbelaar said.
“The last three games were away from home, and although we won all three, we made it a bit more difficult for ourselves against the Pumas by not scoring another try (and getting a bonus point) because then we would have been ahead of WP and the Lions.
“Now it depends on the other teams losing against each other, but if we win and get bonus points in the last two games, then we will be in the semi-finals.”