Bulls want to get physicality back against free-spirited Cheetahs
CAPE TOWN - Rugby players tend to save their best performances for when they face their former teams, and sometimes good friends too.
And that is what Bulls lock Jason Jenkins is planning to do when he squares off with Cheetahs counterpart Carl Wegner in Friday’s Super Rugby Unlocked showdown in Bloemfontein (7pm kick-off).
In fact, the two big men were actually teammates before - at the Toyota Verblitz club in Japan, where ex-All Blacks boss Steve Hansen is involved as a coaching consultant.
Jenkins will return to Toyota in about a month’s time, but now gets the chance to put one over Wegner, who was the Man of the Match in the Cheetahs’ 53-31 victory over the Pumas last week.
“It would be nice to get a Man of the Match performance. I actually know Carl quite well - he played with me at Toyota over in Japan. So, we are good friends, and we actually had a chat after last week’s game,” the 24-year-old second-rower said yesterday.
“I will definitely try and put a bit of pressure on him. It’s always nice playing against some friends - you can put them under pressure, and hopefully we can get the win.”
But Jenkins knows that Jake White’s team cannot afford to make the same mistakes from the past weekend’s 30-23 win against Griquas in Pretoria. The Bulls went 10-0 down in the first half, and then 18-10 in the second before they improved their accuracy and physicality to wear down the men from Kimberley.
The Cheetahs, though, were superb in a free-spirited display against the Pumas, where they led 41-3 at half-time as they mixed their physical power with skilful attacking play.
Jenkins played a major role in the Bulls’ comeback, as he made the line-break that set up lock partner Ruan Nortje for their opening try that made it 10-10 on the stroke of half-time, while he worked hard in the set-pieces and on defence.
“The Cheetahs like to run the ball wide, and they want to try to expose the teams like that. But if we can take them on upfront - sort of the same as we should’ve done with the Griquas at the start - then we can force them to play more in-field, and then it plays into our hands.
“If we allow them to run around and take the ball wide, then it’s going to put us under pressure. Obviously a little bit disappointed with the mauling (against Griquas) - we like to set high standards, and we want to bring that physicality back to the Bulls, and being able to score maul tries.
“We showed it against the Sharks on that Super Saturday game, but credit to the Griquas. They really manned-up in the mauls, but it is something we have already talked about and are working on this week.”
Jenkins earned his solitary Springbok cap in the 2018 defeat to Wales in Washington, but having seen his countrymen win the Rugby World Cup while he was in Japan last year, he is eager to get back into the Test mix.
“That’s one of the things I spoke to Jake about in coming back to have the stint at the Bulls - you know, just to get back on the map,” he said.
“It’s obviously a massive goal for me.”