Cape Town - Stay switched on for the “funny stuff”, and avoid the soft moments. That was the advice loosehead prop Gerhard Steenekamp had for the rest of the Blue Bulls side in order to knock over the Cheetahs in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final in Bloemfontein (3pm kick-off).
The Pretoria outfit lost both games to the Free Staters this season, with the first-round 32-7 loss away followed by a hard-fought 31-27 defeat at Loftus Versfeld last week.
But while the Bulls were outplayed in Bloemfontein, they were dominant in the opening quarter last Saturday, racing into a 19-0 lead.
However, the match was turned on its head when star No 8 Elrigh Louw was given a red card by referee AJ Jacobs – following consultation with TMO Aimee Barrett-Theron – for a dangerous clean-out which saw him make contact with the head of Cheetahs flank Siba Qoma late in the first half.
The Bulls are still hoping that Louw will feature in the semi-final, with a disciplinary hearing scheduled for this week.
Despite the one-man advantage, the Bulls still had a number of opportunities to win the game right until the end, when a line-out drive was stopped by the visitors inside the 22.
“It’s about staying switched on 100% all of the time – to make sure that you are not caught off-guard. They are a team that catch many teams unawares, so we must be alert for the ‘funny stuff’, I can say,” giant No 1 Steenekamp said yesterday.
Embrose Papier is ELECTRIC ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/1BEkSET0Id— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) June 13, 2023
“We must get quicker to the breakdown – that was the main thing about it. I don’t think they dominated us physically there … It’s just that we were too late.
“I feel that we lost a bit of our focus during the season, but that’s something we are working on for this weekend – just ensuring that we stay switched on. We had here and there a few soft moments, where we lost concentration.
“So, making sure we are tuned in for all 80 minutes will make a big difference.
“I think it (last weekend’s match) will play a role. Both teams will know what to expect, and it will be about who can come up with the best plan in a short time, with such a short turnaround.
“We will do that a lot in Europe still, so it’s something we need to get good at for the future.”
Steenekamp and his Bulls frontrow colleagues, Jan-Hendrik Wessels and Mornay Smith, had a fierce scrum battle with their Cheetahs counterparts Schalk Ferreira, Marnus van der Merwe and Conraad van Vuuren.
“The plan for the weekend is that we are not going to make it an individual thing – we are going to put our pack against their pack, if I can say it like that.
“We will see whose system is the best prepared, and we will throw everything we have into it and see what happens.”