PRETORIA – The north versus south derby has still not lost its sting but utmost for the Blue Bulls in their crucial Currie Cup clash against Western Province will be victory and making sure that they secure themselves a favourable place in the semi-finals according to captain Hanro Liebenberg.
While the Bulls would have been bellowing all week in anticipation for Saturday’s derby at Loftus Versfeld, they are also aware that emotion won’t win them the game and they will have to call on all of their strengths if they are to break the Cape side’s unbeaten run in the competition this year.
“Most definitely. If you don’t get yourself up for Western Province then I don’t know. When we got here (Loftus) on Monday everyone can feel that excitement in the build up to a game against Western Province,” said Liebenberg yesterday.
With the defending champions already guaranteed a home semi-final berth, they will come to the capital determined to showcase why they are overwhelming favourites to retain the title with their dominant pack of forwards and tremendously quick backline littered with stars.
But Liebenberg believes they have the personnel to match that of Western Province and with Springboks Trevor Nyakane, Marco van Staden, Ivan van Zyl and Jamba Ulengo back in the starting line-up and Embrose Papier on the bench, the Bulls will be out to prove that they are just as good if not better.
“Our preparation was very good this week and our homework on Western Province was spot on. Everything is set up very well and we are in for a good game. And obviously they are a team you have to play 80 minutes against and we know what they can do.
If they get loose balls they will punish you so we know their strengths and our strengths so we have to match them at their strengths,” Liebenberg said.
Bulls coach Pote Human is also using the emotions of the derby to work up his side into a frenzy but has also reminded them of the importance of winning the game if they are to continue playing a part in the competition beyond this weekend.
As unlikely as it is that the Golden Lions will lose to the Pumas, who still have a mathematical chance of overtaking the Bulls into the semi-finals if the men from Pretoria lose to Western Province without a bonus point, Human wants his side to take a win at all costs approach regardless of the permutations.
“As I said to them, if they are not motivated to play against Western Province at Loftus then they don’t belong here. I think they are really motivated for this one, it’s a big one for us depending what happens tomorrow night (Golden Lions and Pumas) it might be a must win for us to go through to the semis. Everyone knows the importance of this game,” said Human.
The Blue Bulls team is:
Divan Rossouw, Jamba Ulengo, Johnny Kotze, Franco Naude, Jade Stighling, Manie Libbok, Ivan van Zyl, Hanro Liebenberg (captain), Marco van Staden, Ruan Steenkamp, Eli Snyman, Hendre Stassen, Trevor Nyakane, Jaco Visagie, Matthys Basson.
Replacements: Edgar Marutlulle, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Ruan Nortje, Nic de Jager, Embrose Papier, Tinus de Beer, Dylan Sage.
What you should know:
Springbok scrumhalf Embrose Papier will be making his Currie Cup debut for the Blue Bulls if he comes off the bench even though he has been capped at Super Rugby and international level.
Springbok loose forward Marco van Staden will be making his first Currie Cup appearance this season for the Blue Bulls having spent all season long with the Springboks in the Rugby Championship.
The Blue Bulls have featured in four consecutive semi-finals after failing to make it in 2013.
The last time they played Western Province at Loftus Versfeld, Damian Willemse slotted over the winning penalty in the last minute of the game last year.