PRETORIA -The injury blow to Springbok Warrick Gelant would have left the Bulls reeling and on their knees ahead of their much talked about Super Rugby encounter against the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (Kick-off: 5.15pm).
But thankfully to long term planning by the Bulls management, there has long been a plan in place for the Hurricanes and all the different scenarios that could play out ahead and during the game.
The late withdrawal of Gelant from the team due to a niggling knee injury and the subsequent elevation of Divan Rossouw to the starting berth at fullback will have no impact on the delivery of the plan by the Bulls.
Part of that plan will be largely around the Bulls being able to stand their ground against a star-studded outfit while being able to score tries at will and ultimately finishing the game with a favourable outcome as opposed to last year’s defeat.
With what seems like a winning blueprint by coach John Mitchell, it is clear that all the Bulls need is precision in execution regardless of who they have in the team according to captain Burger Odendaal.
“I think there is always stuff you have to work on, it is never going to be perfect. It has been a good preseason for us and the coach has had the plan on how he wants to play against the Hurricanes for the past four weeks. Everything is clear cut for us, we just have to go out and perform. If we stick to the structures, the outcome will take care of itself,” said Odendaal.
#BULvHUR Warrick Gelant has been pulled out of the match 23, due to a slight niggle to the knee. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Divan Rossouw, with Duncan Matthews coming in at 23. #bullsfamily50k pic.twitter.com/yKlTGcclDQ
Over and above having a plan, their misfortune of losing their most lethal attacking exponent in Gelant could very well play into their hands psychologically with Duncan Matthews being called up in Rossouw’s place on the bench.
Matthews starred against the Hurricanes at Loftus last year scoring a try and holding his own against gigantic All Black wing Julian Savea and it will be that highlight in a horrid season that the Bulls will use as a source of motivation.
The Bulls will certainly need to draw as much motivation as they can get as the Hurricanes not only come to the capital having had the better of their hosts in recent times but with individuals who are high on confidence following their heroics in Super Rugby and for the All Blacks in the past two years.
The Hurricanes come into the encounter as overwhelming favourites but they too will have their doubts playing a side that is not short of determination and hunger to impress their coach by sticking to a plan that will be their first step on their road to glory.
“It’s not intimidating it is more motivating especially for our young players. I remember last year Duncan played against Savea. At the beginning of the week everyone chirped him (Matthews), I think he had a great game and still scored an absolutely brilliant try against them. I think it is more motivation than intimidation for us,” Burger said.
Bulls team: Divan Rossouw, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Johnny Kotze, Handre Pollard, Andre Warner, Hanro Liebenberg, Thembelani Bholi, Roelof Smit, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Frans van Wyk, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka, Conraad van Vuuren, Nic de Jager, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier, Marnitz Boshoff, Duncan Matthews.
Hurricanes team: Matt Proctor, Julian Savea, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Wes Goosen, Ihaia West, TJ Perenara, Gareth Evans, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields (captain), Sam Lousi, Vaea Fifita, Ben May, Ricky Riccitelli, Toby Smith. Replacements: James O'Reilly, Chris Eves, Alex Fidow, Murray Douglas, Blade Thomson, Jamie Booth, Beauden Barrett, Ben Lam.