The Bulls will be looking to turn their season around. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
One stellar performance and another half-decent one tell the story of the Blue Bulls’ campaign in this year’s Currie Cup competition.

The team’s hopes of reaching the play-offs may already be a distant memory by the time their match against the Sharks kicks off at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria today.

The real challenge will be to avoid sinking further down into the abyss and the promotion-relegation play-off zone. It would be an embarrassing slide for a proud and mighty rugby union looking to rebuild following a massive player exodus.

South African unions just don’t have the money to retain or sign the big players demanding even bigger pay cheques.

The Currie Cup campaign is about more than fighting it out for one of the most prized possessions of the local game. The young calves now donning the Light Blue jersey will have to develop into bulls. And quickly. This team represents the core of the Bulls’ player corps for next year’s Super Rugby.

So far they have not impressed, and with only two victories to show for their efforts, it will simply not be good enough in a competition that notches up a few levels.

The Blue Bulls’ final round-robin match should show something about the team’s attitude in which they will go up against a side already with one hand on a semi-final berth.

The stakes will be high for both teams today. A slip-up could see the Blue Bulls slip into the final spot on the log. The consequences, if they lose, may not be as dramatic for the Sharks but the defending champions would like to have at least a shot at keeping the Currie Cup in Durban.

The noises coming from Loftus Versfeld suggest there is still plenty of character left in the Bulls’ side despite their below-par campaign.

Their gutsy victory over the Golden Lions in Johannesburg with a numerical disadvantage serves as evidence.

“There is no place to hide and we know what the Sharks need and we know what we need, and we will have to be close to perfect in every aspect of our game,” Blue Bulls captain Ivan van Zyl said this week. “We can’t be slack on defence and give them four tries, and we can’t be bad with ball in hand because we need four tries ourselves.

“It is a nice challenge for us, and I think we showed against the Golden Lions we relish a challenge after making it difficult for ourselves. If we can keep 15 players on the field, it would already be a positive for us.”

Both teams have been strengthened by the return of a few Springboks with the Blue Bulls naming prop Lizo Gqoboka and loose forward Marco van Staden in their starting XV. The Sharks, in turn, will have Thomas du Toit and André Esterhuyzen in their midst.


Independent on Saturday