PRETORIA – The Blue Bulls find themselves in an unenviable situation where their Currie Cup fate is not entirely in their hands.
But captain Burger Odendaal says they will play their part in keeping their playoff aspirations alive when they host the Pumas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
Odendaal’s troops will not only have to replicate the performances of the past few weeks, but will need to ensure that they finish the game with a bonus-point win if they are to have a realistic chance of making the semi-finals.
However, try as they may, the Bulls will then have to endure a drawn-out wait for Saturday’s encounters between the Sharks and Western Province, but more so the clash between the Golden Lions and Free State Cheetahs.
While the Sharks have already secured their place in the semi-finals and even the stuttering Western Province, the outcome of the cat-fight at Ellis Park will ultimately determine if Odendaal and his men live to play another week in the competition.
The third-placed Cheetahs are on 31 points, while the Lions are fourth, one point behind, while the Bulls are just three adrift of the Lions.
“We are just going to go out and give a good performance on Friday. We’ll watch the other teams fight it out on Saturday, and hopefully get a spot so we can do it next weekend again,” said Odendaal.
The inside centre, though, is not blinded by his team’s recent performances where they have shown significant growth in their style of play.
But he says they are striving to get better and are chasing that perfect game.
“I think so. I think the performances show that as well. I think a couple of calls could have gone our way, then we would have been in a different situation than what we are at the moment.
“There are still things we need to work on and it is never going to be perfect, but it is going to be about how close we can get to perfect.”
The fact that the coach John Mitchell has named an unchanged team for the third week running will place the Bulls in a better place to build on their win against the Cheetahs last week.
It will also give them an ideal opportunity to avenge the 51-15 defeat they suffered in Nelspruit at the hands of the Pumas.
Mitchell is confident that his side are moving in the right direction and that they will not repeat the ills of their ways that saw them manhandled in the forwards and showed poor discipline by the three yellow cards conceded.
“I guess it’s a quarter-final and they will take strength and heart from their performance in Nelspruit. They’ll come for our heart and forwards, there is no doubt about that.
“It will be a good measure for us in terms of how we have grown emotionally and how we have understood that certain aspects on the game.
“We are well equipped, we’ve got the right processes in place to deal with where we think their strength will come. Ultimately, we are going to have to bring the physicality to it, and also the discipline with that as well,” said Mitchell.
Teams For Loftus
Blue Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Duncan Matthews, Burger Odendaal (captain), JT Jackson, Johnny Kotze, Marnitz Boshoff, Ivan van Zyl, Nic de Jager, Tim Agaba, Marco van Staden, Aston Fortuin, Ruben van Heerden, Conraad van Vuuren, Edgar Marutlulle, Pierre Schoeman.
Bench: Johan Grobbelaar, Matthys Basson, Jano Venter, Boom Prinsloo, Piet van Zyl, Tony Jantjies, Travis Ismaiel.
Pumas: Gerrit Smit, Selom Gavor, Jerome Pretorius, Hennie Skorbinski (captain), Ruwellyn Isbell, Kobus Marais, Stefan Ungerer, Willie Engelbrecht, Nardus van der Walt, Chris Cloete, Hugo Kloppers, Jannie Stander, Pieter Scholtz, Marko Janse van Rensburg, Khwezi Mona.
Bench: Frank Herne, De-Jay Terblanche, Cameron Lindsay, Hilton Lobberts, Francois Kleinhans, Reynier van Rooyen, Gerrie Labuschagne.