PRETORIA – With just a solitary point separating four teams in Super Rugby’s South African conference, the Bulls will be going for a double victory against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday, according to coach John Mitchell.
The Bulls find themselves sandwiched between the second placed Jaguares and fourth placed Sharks, but all on 24 points with only points difference separating them.
And this is where Mitchell believes his side can gain double as much as they would in a normal game with victory over the Jaguares certain to take them to second place and leave the South Americans scrambling to secure a play-off berth.
As much as the Bulls will be hoping the Sharks drop points in their game against the Chiefs, their plan will be to open a gap between themselves and the rest of the teams in the conference while hunting down the Lions, who are all but guaranteed a place in the play-offs with a 17-point lead.
“If you can get doubles in this competition it’s massive strides, especially now that we head into the business part of the season,” said Mitchell.
“We are all vying for the same points and for number one and two. The Lions are there and the rest of us are trying to create the necessary pressure on them. We are all seeking to try and overtake them and that’s why this competition is going to go down to the wire.”
After injuries to vital personnel, with Lood de Jager and Lizo Gqoboka being ruled out for the year and centre Burger Odendaal nursing a rib injury, Mitchell has been forced to make changes.
Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard will lead the side and will start at inside centre in place of Odendaal, while Junior Springbok Manie Libbok will get his first start in the No 10 jersey.
Jason Jenkins moves from flank to the second row to rekindle his locking partnership with RG Snyman, with Thembelani Bholi starting at blindside flank, while Trevor Nyakane moves from tighthead to loosehead prop with Conraad van Vuuren set to start in the No 3 jersey.
Even with the triple blow of injuries, the fact that they have never won a Super Rugby game in Argentina, and face a Jaguares side still riding the crest of a wave after their four-match unbeaten Australasia tour, the Bulls are full of confidence after a 39-33 win against the Sharks and feel the South Americans are vulnerable, especially on the discipline front.
“They still give away a lot of penalties, I guess it’s how you can force them to being cynical,” said Mitchell.
“On their tour not too many teams drove them heavily and they have given away a lot of penalties there and yellow cards. There are opportunities there, so hopefully we can present a case that tests the referee in that area of the field.
“The field is going to be fast, it is a bit shorter in width. It will be hostile and the crowd will be heavily in voice.”
The Bulls team is:
Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard, Johnny Kotze, Manie Libbok, Ivan van Zyl, Marco van Staden, Thembelani Bholi, Roelof Smit, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Conraad van Vuuren, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Nqobi Mxoli, Frans van Wyk, Hendre Stassen, Nic de Jager, Andre Warner, JT Jackson, Divan Rossouw