Warrick Gelant will look to spark the Blue Bulls on attack once more against the Cheetahs. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

PRETORIA – Now that the Blue Bulls have found their hunger for scoring tries, head coach John Mitchell now wants them to show the same desire on defence in their last two matches of the round-robin stage of the Currie Cup.

In their last three games, the Bulls have crossed the whitewash 13 times as they continue to revel under the new Mitchell dispensation.

But their age-old problem on defence also continues to persist with 12 tries conceded against the Golden Lions, Sharks and Western Province respectively.

With only two matches remaining in the regular season and the Bulls still holding on by a thread to hopes of making the playoffs, it will be crucial for them to up the ante on defence, while continuing to dismantle teams with their attack.

They need to secure bonus-point wins against the Free State Cheetahs and Pumas that could see them through to the semi-finals.

At the same time, Mitchell is aware that his team have struggled with defence throughout the year from their woeful Super Rugby campaign.

But the former All Blacks coach believes that their defensive frailties stems from players’ fear of making mistakes.

Mitchell has vowed to “eliminate” the defensive problems that have plagued his side by the end of the season, and has demanded a no-fear approach in the tackle for Friday’s match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.  

“I just want to see a no-fear defensive performance. I just want players to step up defensively and totally be centred collectively in our defence.

“It has been a limitation the whole year, and to me there’s a great future in the way that we defend, but at the moment, we are still afraid to make errors.

“We have to find a different meaning around attacking defence because at the moment, we still look like a side that fears to make a mistake in the tackle, and that is something that I’m wanting to eliminate and I will eliminate as we move forward.

“In the last two performances of the season, I want to see an improved collective defence.”

John Mitchell is confident that the Blue Bulls can fix their problems with “attacking defence”. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

And Mitchell has made it a little bit easier on his team by naming an unchanged line-up from that which narrowly lost 45-46 against Western Province on Sunday.

The Bulls will look for atonement against the defending champions, who had also inflicted a post-hooter defeat on the men in blue seven weeks ago.

“It is important to create cohesion, and continuity in people also helps cohesion. While there are a number of players coming back from injuries, I think history tells us that we probably have managed the players back into playing rugby as well as we could,” Mitchell said.

“We obviously have a new methodology and we want players to earn the jersey, but we also want players to return for a length of time.

“That is also putting faith in the players as well because some of these younger players in their absence have actually performed well, so it is important to make sure that they are awarded.”

Blue Bulls Team

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Duncan Matthews, 13 Burger Odendaal (captain), 12 JT Jackson, 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Tim Agaba, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Aston Fortuin, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Pierre Schoeman.

Bench: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Matthys Basson, 18 Jano Venter, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 Ulrich Beyers. 

 

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