Blue Bulls ready for 'threatening' Western Province
CAPE TOWN - There are several Blue Bulls players and staff with connections to Western Province and the Cape, and one of those coaches is Russell Winter.
A hard-working No 8 in his day, Winter became the forwards coach at WP and the Stormers in November 2015, when he was set to work under Eddie Jones’ tutelage.
Jones, though, quickly moved to England, which saw Robbie Fleck become the head coach, where Winter helped developed the nucleus of the Springbok World Cup-winning pack – Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit all worked with him at one stage.
That front row is still based at Newlands, while Koch and Etzebeth are overseas, and Kolisi and Du Toit are injured.
So, does he have some inside info ahead of Saturday’s clash at Newlands (7pm kick-off).
“I’ve got so much respect for that team and those players. Phenomenal players there – that front row has won a World Cup, and there is so much potential in the back-five of the forwards,” Winter said yesterday.
“They’re threatening all over the park, and could’ve easily been at the top of the log as well. They’ve been playing well and only lost one game, and will be a tough nut to crack. At home, they pose such a good challenge when they play at Newlands.
“We are not going to change much, but we understand that this is one of the big games in South Africa.
They’ve got such a good side, and we expect them to come out and play to their potential. It’s really juicy, and they’re going to leave everything out there – and so will we.”
The memory of the Stormers’ 39-6 annihilation at Loftus Versfeld a few weeks ago will still be in the minds of the WP side this week, and they may look to put the Bulls pack under pressure in the scrums.
Winter admits that they have been at their best in that set-phase, where they have been missing
Springbok Lizo Gqoboka, who has still recovered from a calf injury.
“We have been inconsistent in the scrums, and it’s something we are constantly working on. But all the packs are so well conditioned, and the Stormers are probably the leaders as they have such a good front row and pack of forwards. Our scrum is not where we want it to be, and we know that.”
Jake White hinted over the weekend, following the title-clinching 21-5 Super Rugby Unlocked win over the Pumas that he was considering rotating some of his players for the Currie Cup. Winter said that it is something that also has next year’s PRO Rugby tournament in mind, but he was not sure if changes will be made for the WP showdown on Saturday.
“We really want to try and give everybody a chance, but we also want to do what’s best for the team going forward. We’ve discussed every single player, but in terms of the team selection, that hasn’t been decided yet,” he said.
“We’re a squad, and the squad needs to be upskilled to a level that we can compete in Pro14. We’ve got to make sure that the transition is smooth.”