Cape Town – The Blue Bulls have delayed their team announcement for Friday’s Currie Cup clash against Western Province until 6pm tonight – and WP coach John Dobson is expecting a full-strength URC side to run out at Loftus Versfeld.
Province announced their match-23 at 11am on Thursday, but the Pretoria side will only name their squad in the evening.
That has led to speculation that Bulls director of rugby Jake White and Currie Cup head coach Edgar Marutlulle might unleash their best players against WP following last week’s 63-15 disaster against the Pumas at Loftus.
There were some URC players in the Bulls side against the Pumas, but Dobson said on Thursday that he wouldn’t be surprised to see even senior captain Ruan Nortjé feature against WP.
Springbok stars Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie rejoined the Bulls this week after the national team training camp, and were expected to only return to the playing field next weekend in the URC against Ulster in Belfast.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and the battling Bulls – who have lost five games in a row across the Champions Cup, URC and Currie Cup – may just call on Arendse and Moodie for the WP clash too.
“I haven’t seen their team, but I suspect it will be their URC team – or very close to it,” Dobson said on Thursday.
“We’ve got a challenge tomorrow, as I have no doubt that the Bulls will be putting out a very, very strong team – maybe a more URC-based team. We are not going that route, but there is a lot of pride in this group, and we are going to fight tomorrow night.”
Dobson selected a few Stormers URC players himself on Thursday, such as Clayton Blommetjies, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Ruhan Nel, Paul de Wet, Ben-Jason Dixon and Hacjivah Dayimani, but added that there were still 22 players in training who were not making the trip to Pretoria as they prepare for next Friday’s showdown with Leinster in Dublin.
But the WP coach warned his players that they cannot expect an easy time against the Bulls, despite the Pumas’ dominant display last Sunday.
“We had a week a while ago where we talked a little bit about complacency, and we are very far from that. I dream and fear about weekends like that, where everything goes right for one team,” Dobson said.
“As well as the Pumas played, it was extraordinary. Everything stuck, and you go to bed on the Friday night as a coach and think ‘Jeepers, I hope that happens to us tomorrow’.
“You also have the complete converse for the Bulls… They’re attacking and the score is still reasonably close, and they go down the line, and a turnover there and a length-of-the-field try and it’s 27-0.
“And you’re hanging yourself because you’ve got to try and play. It was one of those games… A lot of credit to the Pumas for how they were conditioned and how they prepared for the tempo in those conditions.
“But it’s not going to happen to that Bulls team again, I promise you – they’re far too good.
“The other thing is that we’ve stuck to the Currie Cup team and what we want, and we’ve got 22 guys training today who are not going up to Pretoria tomorrow.
“We were apparently very lucky to win there the last time… we were one maul away from it! And that was with our URC team, so if we think with our Currie Cup team we can be complacent, it would be misguided.
“We just want to try to do something special and make the people of Cape Town proud, as we will really be up against it. The Bulls are a much better team than last week’s game.
“I read before we played there a few weeks ago that the Bulls’ rivals are actually the Sharks! But it’s not the case for us. We see this as our biggest rivalry, and it goes back over 80 years.
“You could see the vibe there, with the amount of Stormers/Province supporters with the striped jerseys in the crowd.
“Us and the Bulls have done a great job over the last while to sort of re-stoking that. It does go through cycles – sometimes it is the Sharks and the Bulls, and sometimes us and the Sharks.
“But there’s just something about that light-blue jersey against the royal blue-and-white stripes that is just a beautiful sight – and I’m sure the Bulls themselves would agree with that.”
Western Province team: 15 Clayton Blommetjies 14 Suleiman Hartzenberg 13 Juan de Jongh 12 Jean-Luc du Plessis 11 Ruhan Nel 10 Kade Wolhuter 9 Paul de Wet 8 Keke Morabe 7 Willie Engelbrecht 6 Marcel Theunissen 5 Connor Evans 4 Ernst van Rhyn (captain) 3 Sazi Sandi 2 Andre-Hugo Venter 1 Kwenzo Blose.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni 17 Leon Lyons 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko 19 Dylan de Leeuw 20 Ben-Jason Dixon 21 Hacjivah Dayimani 22 Godlen Masimla 23 Bruce Sherwood.