PRETORIA - Everything about the Sharks says they are a better outfit than the Blue Bulls ahead of their Currie Cup semi-final in Durban on Saturday.
However, the Bulls see the game as an opportunity to prove to themselves that they too stand a good a chance as any of the other three teams in the play-offs, even though they made it through the back door.
The rampant and abrasive Sharks pack will have to be the Bulls' first point of attack and once parity is gained up front, the men from Pretoria will unleash hell on the Durbanites with their backs, according to Bulls scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl.
Van Zyl has been one of the standout Bulls performers in recent weeks, making the best of limited opportunities and wrestling the No 9 jumper from Andre Warner and Springbok Piet van Zyl.
In the same way he has made good of the opportunities presented to him, Van Zyl believes it is those small opportunities that will decide the winners and losers on Saturday in Durban.
“They obviously have a big pack but that could also be to our advantage," said Van Zyl. "Our backs are playing well this season so far, but we have confidence in our forwards for this weekend and what they are going to deliver.
"We are focused on getting good ball from them as well and making the best out of every opportunity. That's semi-final rugby and whoever is going to capitalise on the small opportunities they get will emerge on top."
The former Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool halfback will need to seize the moment for his team and himself as he faces tough competition from whoever the Sharks choose to select in former Springbok Michael Claassens or Springbok in waiting Louis Schreuder.
Van Zyl is not at all overawed by the occasion, and having scored the winning try in last year’s semi-final against Western Province, it is he Claassens and Schreuder will need to keep an eye on.
“As a scrumhalf it is one of the most important things to be able to make the right choices and decisions, like when to kick and when to hold onto the ball," he explained.
"I’m really looking forward to playing against the likes of Claassens and Schreuder. I want to measure myself against guys who have been there and are still at the top of their game.”
The 22-year-old possesses one of the most crisp and quickest services, and more often than not makes the right decision on when to kick or run, with running seemingly the only option the Bulls are willing to take under new coach John Mitchell.
It is with this attack-minded attitude the Bulls have adopted that Van Zyl has assumed the role of making those around him look good, making him probably the most important cog in the Bulls machine.
The ever-improving Bulls pack and devastating backline will be vital to their team causing the upset of the season, but it is Van Zyl who holds the key to how the game will unfold.
“For me the key focus will be how quick I can get the ball and how quick I can make the game," he said. "It is always a focus for me and something I pride myself on, which is putting other people into space.
"I always feel like it’s important for me to make everyone else around me look good. That is a key focus for me and everyone brings their own set of skills, but I want to give really good service and the quickness of play is really important for me."