PRETORIA – Just one match into the Currie Cup campaign and Blue Bulls coach Pote Human is already talking of non-negotiable victories ahead of their clash against the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening.
The shortened format leaves the Pretoria side with only five games before the play-offs with the defeat to Western Province putting them on the back foot.
“We have to rectify our loss against Province last week, and this is our home game, so it is non-negotiable. Because of the short competition, you can’t slip again,” Human said.
He said they expected a battle royal against a rested and strong Cheetahs side in their first of three home games.
“It will be a huge challenge for us, especially because it is a home game and they don’t know what to expect of us,” Human said.
“They had a good pre-season which we didn’t have, so it will be interesting. We know (Cheetahs coach) Franco Smith, and he wants to play a 15-man style. They have a good pack with experienced guys so it will be interesting for both sides.”
The Bulls surrendered Lood de Jager, who is expected to run out for the Springboks in their Rugby Championship opener against Australia at Ellis Park on Saturday, while Marco van Staden has been named on the Bulls’ bench.
Human said Van Staden was on standby for the Boks and was named as a replacement as he could not train with the team during the week.
New Bulls recruit Andries Ferreira will make his first start partnering Ruan Nortje in the second row.
The Bulls battled in the scrums against WP, where Human felt some of the 50/50 calls went against them.
He said he believed scrum guru Daan Human, who has left the Cheetahs to join the Bulls full-time, would whip the set-piece into shape and prove a point against his former union.
Meanwhile, Human welcomed the signing of Scotland international and former Golden Lions skipper Josh Strauss.
Sale Sharks announced on Monday that Strauss would be leaving Manchester, England, with immediate effect.
“For family reasons, a move back to South Africa makes sense, and I was delighted to get an offer from the Bulls ahead of the 2020 Super Rugby season,” Strauss said in a statement.
Human said Strauss would play a similar role to that of Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits, who provided much-needed experience in their Super Rugby campaign.
“We need senior players; most of our senior players have left us, so you need a guy like Josh with his experience. He is in Scotland’s group, and he hopes to go to the World Cup; he was the Golden Lions’ captain with great success. I believe he will add value to the Bulls.”
The Blue Bulls team is:
Divan Rossouw, Cornal Hendricks, Johnny Kotze, Burger Odendaal (capt), Rosko Specman, Manie Libbok, Embrose Papier, Tim Agaba, Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Nortje, Wiehahn Herbst, Jaco Visagie, Simphiwe Matanzima
Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Conraad van Vuuren, Jean Droste, Marco van Staden, Ivan van Zyl, Marnitz Boshoff, Dylan Sage@ockertde