PRETORIA - The Blue Bulls have made no secret of the “ace up their sleeve” ahead of their much talked about Currie Cup semi-final against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
In fact, the Bulls are open about having embraced their underdog tag after they slipped into the play-offs at the last moment via the back door but they will go to Durban in the hope of breaking the Sharks monopoly of wins in the competition and to present themselves with what seemed an impossible chance of making the final.
Never one to mince his words, Bulls executive for rugby and head coach John Mitchell made it clear that he cares less for the Sharks near impeccable record leading to the semi-finals where they lost two matches out of 12 and believes that their secret plan could just be enough to make them buckle when it matters most.
“It really doesn’t matter how you get there, does it? So stats mean nothing," Mitchell said. "We are all in this together now, so ultimately it is on the day. I’m big on less is more when it comes to tactics. But we do have something up our sleeve which will allow us to apply pressure in a different way.”
Even with an ace up his sleeve, Mitchell was subtle in his warning to the Sharks that they must expect the unexpected as he has given his players the freedom to play what is in front of them.
And Mitchell’s decision to give his players the responsibility of playing the situation will get confidence from having named an unchanged team for the third week running as they go in search of their third consecutive win.
“I guess the difficult thing for us is the challenges you don’t know you are going to get because we are capable of anything. We will go to all areas of space through our skill set and decision-making.So it will come down to the decision-making of what is in front of us,” he said.
Such is the confidence within the Bulls team that they have not altered their preparations with Mitchell a strong believer in keeping to what has worked in the past few weeks especially in their running approach and has only asked his players to make sure that they bring on the brutality against a side that thrives on physicality.
“It’s a new ball game. It requires us sticking to our process, staying on task, it is about controlling your emotion and making sure you are focused,” Mitchell said.
"It’s been a big week about getting clarity in your role and naturally if you have that and are confident then you can bring the physicality. It is also about making sure that the players get the optimal training load as well so we are nice and sharp."
The men from the capital will also play the psychological game and have piled on more pressure on the Sharks not only as the home side but as the team that has set the pace in the competition and will also have the weight of expectation after bulldozing the Bulls twice this season.
But Mitchell is hopeful that his players will heed his call for a good start and for his talented bench that includes the likes of Lizo Gqoboka, Jannes Kirsten and Duncan Matthews to seal the biggest upset in this year’s Currie Cup.