PRETORIA – And so begins the week from hell when the Blue Bulls and Golden Lions will have their Currie Cup credentials put to the test.
It might still be early days in the domestic season but it will be crucial for both teams to gather some momentum when they meet tonight at Loftus Versfeld, especially with the congested fixture list that will see the Bulls play three matches in seven days.
Having enjoyed a victorious start to their campaign, the Bulls will be looking to build on their win against the Griquas a fortnight ago ahead of tricky encounters against the Sharks on Wednesday at home and Western Province next Saturday at Newlands.
“We’ve planned for the three games and we will be looking at bringing in players like Jamba Ulengo and Dries Swanepoel to the side ahead of the Sharks game. But a lot of what we will do and how the team will look like will be determined by what happens against the Lions. For now we are just looking at the Lions and continuing from how we played against Griquas,” said Bulls coach Nollis Marais.
Playing in their first game at home, the men in blue have made some cosmetic alterations to their team that last played in Kimberley, notably with flyhalf Tony Jantjies, centre Franco Naudé and winger Kefentse Mahlo making their first starts. and lock Irne Herbst, John-Roy Jenkinson and Jan-Henning Campher also added to the pack.
It is with their strongest team available that the Bulls will seek to capitalise against a Lions team missing some of their influential players who are involved in today’s Super Rugby final.
However, the Lions still possess a formidable team with deadly finishers like Madosha Tambwe and Aphiwe Dyantyi on the wings while the likes of captain and former Springbok Ryan Kankowski, Fabian Booysens and Marvin Orie are expected to be crucial with their guidance in the pack.
While the Lions began the competition on the back foot with a shock loss against the Pumas, they bounced back with aplomb last weekend by recording a morale-boosting bonus-point win against a strong Griquas.
“We have a very young team which is still growing and we will want to focus on the things we did well against Griquas. The Lions also played well against them last week and showed they are a quality side even without some of their top men still playing Super Rugby,” said Marais.
“For us it is important to make sure we get the points against them now before the return of some of their players when we face each other again in round two.”
Teams For Loftus
Blue Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Franco Naudé, Burger Odendaal, Kefentse Mahlo, Tony Jantjies, Piet van Zyl, Nic de Jager, Jannes Kirsten, Boom Prinsloo (capt), Ruben van Heerden, Irne Herbst, John-Roy Jenkinson, Jan-Henning Campher, Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Matthys Basson, Abongile Nonkontwana, Shaun Adendorff, André Warner, Tinus de Beer, JT Jackson.
Golden Lions: Ashlon Davids, Madosha Tambwe, Stokkies Hanekom, Jarryd Sage, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Shaun Reynolds, Marco Janse van Vuren, Ryan Kankowski (capt), Fabian Booysen, James Venter, Marvin Orie, Rhyno Herbst, Andrew Beerwinkel, Michael Willemse, Sti Sithole.
Replacements: Pieter Jansen, Nico du Plessis, Bobby de Wee, Hacjivah Dayimani, Jano Venter, Morné van den Berg, Jan-Louis la Grange.