PRETORIA - If the Blue Bulls are to get their Currie Cup campaign back on track against the Golden Lions, after it got derailed in their defeat against the Sharks, then they will need to stay in the moment and play with no fear, according to scrumhalf Andre Warner.
Having played the Lions twice in Super Rugby and finding themselves on the losing side both times this year, Warner believes they have a firm understanding of what it is their provincial neighbours will bring to the party at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Key to the Bulls being able to overcome the Lions will be in gaining set-piece dominance and stopping the Johannesburg-based side’s lethal rolling maul but also rectifying the many handling errors that led to their demise in Durban over the weekend.
“We owe the Lions one and we are looking forward to Saturday, especially being at home. It is a short competition with five rounds so it's a big game for us at home,” said Warner.
“I think we must stay in the fight. They have a good set-piece and we must stop their set-piece. They have good scrums and mauls and they scored the most maul tries in Super Rugby but our forwards will sort that out. We must stay in the moment and if the opportunity arises we must take them not like against the Sharks.”
What will be crucial for the men in blue is their ability to quickly lift themselves from the ills of their ways in Durban and make sure that they approach Saturday’s contest with the same confidence and belief with which they began the campaign.
“We are confident. Not one guy in our team doubts himself. That is something that comes through from coach Pote (Human). He speaks every week about not playing with fear. Even with the weekend where there were so many mistakes, the guys will still go out without fear and no pressure on them. I feel that brings the best out of a player,” Warner said.
“We had a good start in Bloem and went with high confidence against the Sharks. I think we did good stuff in the game and we had the opportunities to win the game also so that’s a great positive for us. We were a bit down but sorted it out (yesterday) and are positive and looking forward to the game.”
Warner, though, conceded that they their handling was porous against the Sharks but said it was not a lack of skills but rather a mental hurdle they will need to overcome.
“We reviewed it on the video and it is a combination of what we did in the week. We had a few handling errors in training and sometimes that creeps into the game. And on the day a few skills errors, mentally not in the right space at the moment and making small mistakes cost us over the weekend.”
While the Bulls have to quickly deal with their mental demons and the obvious consequence of not being able to retain possession, Warner will be embroiled in a personal battle of his own against Springbok scrumhalf Ross Cronje in an effort to hopefully catch Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ eye.
However, Warner is facing an uphill battle to achieve his personal ambition of one day becoming a Springbok as he also has to prove himself worthy of moving up the pecking order at Loftus with Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier both involved with the national team at the moment.
“Every opportunity we play is a great opportunity especially against a guy like Ross (Cronje). I have a lot of respect for him and he had a great game against Griquas and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
“We are a tight group of guys, especially at scrumhalf and we learn from each other. Ivan (Van Zyl) and I have been playing against each other for a few years now and Embrose (Papier) came into the mix as well. They are talented guys and I’m happy for them, it’s tough for me. I will always keep fighting for an opportunity and I know that if I get the opportunity the guys will be happy for me,” Warner added.
The Bulls are likely to be without Springbok centre Jesse Kriel against the Lions, who in all probability will be part of the Springbok squad to travel to Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship, while centre Franco Naude has recovered from a hamstring injury and should be available for selection.