JOHANNESBURG - The Blue Bulls will be looking to build on an already good start to their Currie Cup campaign when they face off against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
Having recorded an unlikely bonus point victory against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week, the men in blue will be seeking to solidify their second spot on the log.
Even though handed one of the toughest draws in the competition, with two away games to start their campaign, against a formidable Cheetahs side littered with all their top players who will be playing in the PRO 14 and a Sharks side that played in last year’s final, the Bulls will know that two wins will be a major boost for their title aspirations in a competition that has been cut in half. Blue Bulls captain Hanro Liebenberg says their win in Bloemfontein will be meaningless if they don’t back it up with an equally good performance if not go a notch better.
"We have a tough opening spell in the Currie Cup with away games in Bloemfontein and Durban to start with. We did well in Bloemfontein and that was good for the confidence, but if we don't pitch up in Durban, it could be a step back again. So we are pretty determined to apply ourselves and continue with the good work done against the Free State Cheetahs," Liebenberg said.
And the Bulls will fancy their chances in Durban especially with Springbok centre Jesse Kriel in the starting line-up in place of JT Jackson while the forwards have been boosted with the experience of Hendre Stassen who comes in for the injured Ruben van Heerden.
Bulls coach Pote Human admits that Kriel’s inclusion in the side will increase confidence in the side, but says it will take a team effort to overcome the Sharks in their own backyard.
Human has also made other changes with hooker Jaco Visagie starting ahead of Edgar Marutlulle who drops to the bench while the much vaunted young lock Eli Snyman will also start from the bench after returning from injury. Young scrumhalf Reagan Oranje is likely to make his Currie Cup debut from the bench as he replaces Theo Maree with Andre Warner to continue as the starting number nine.
"Of course it is great to have Jesse back in the team. He is a world class player and we welcome him back with a smile on our faces," said Human. "This remains a team game and a team effort. We need to make sure we create the opportunities and space for someone like Jesse to perform. The Sharks also have a couple of Springboks in their squad, so they will be a pretty tough team to beat, especially in Durban, where they hosted the final last year," Human said.
Blue Bulls team: Divan Rossouw, Jade Stighling, Jessie Kriel, Johnny Kotze, Jamba Ulengo, Manie Libbok, Andre Warner, Hanro Liebenberg (captain), Thembelani Bholi, Ruan Steenkamp, Ruan Nortje, Hendre Stassen, Conrad van Vuuren, Jaco Visagie, Matthys Basson. Replacements: Edgar Marutlulle, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Eli Snyman, Jano Venter, Raegan Oranje, Tony Jantjies, JT Jackson.