Cape Town - The Blue Bulls are facing a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ scenario ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup clash against Western Province in Cape Town (6.30pm kick-off).
The Pretoria outfit are now on a three-match winning streak across all competitions, having hammered Griquas 40-3, Zebre 78-12 and a weakened Leinster 62-7, so they are flying high ahead of their United Rugby Championship (URC) quarterfinal against the Stormers in Cape Town on May 6.
But considering their poor start to the Currie Cup season, they need to gain every log point possible to reach the semi-finals.
They are currently in fifth place on 17 points, two adrift of fourth place Griquas (19) and one ahead of WP heading into this weekend’s Cape Town Stadium clash.
So, should coach Jake White field his URC side again?
WP counterpart John Dobson has already made it clear that the Stormers players won’t feature on
Saturday. “We will definitely play our Currie Cup team. Like I said, we will give these guys a rest and getting them in for the Saturday game will not be in the right interest of them,” he said.
“I don’t know what team the
Bulls will play, but we will definitely be playing our Currie Cup team.”
There are good reasons for White in both scenarios at the Bulls. Continuing with their winning momentum could be vital ahead of the URC quarter-final, particularly on attack, where they have found their rhythm again with ball-inhand.
Flyhalf Johan Goosen needs every second to get further acquainted with in-form scrumhalf Embrose Papier, as well as centres Harold Vorster and Stedman Gans, in order to unleash the back-three of Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and David Kriel.
The forwards, with Elrigh Louw and Ruan Vermaak prominent, have rediscovered their bite too.
“When you’re losing, there’s a lack of energy and a lot of doubt creeps in. Over the last couple of weeks, not only have we won, but we’ve played really well,” White said after the Bulls’ URC play-off spot was confirmed.
“We’ve managed to get our game to the way we want to play it. We know that different games will ask different questions, and that’s the nice thing – we have a lot of confidence, and the style that we are using is a style that can beat any team that we play against.
“We’ve managed to keep our structure and focus on the things we wanted to do well.
“Obviously we had a lot of pressure going into these last couple of games because we had to win them, but in some ways, that’s also a blessing because it’s been knockout rugby with pressure – that is exactly the same when you get into the play-off stages.”
But following the Stormers strategy and keeping the best players out of harm’s way also has its merits.
The Bulls cannot afford to lose stalwarts such as Arendse, Moodie, Louw and hooker Johan Grobbelaar for the Cape Town quarter-final if they pick up injuries against WP this weekend, and giving the top players a breather would also aid the Bulls’ quest.
But considering their poor record against the Stormers, and at the
Cape Town Stadium, it might just be worth it for White to stick to his first-choice side against WP, which would serve two purposes – to gain revenge for the 41-33 first-round loss at Loftus Versfeld, and also keep the engine firing on all cylinders ahead of their URC quarter-final.