PRETORIA – Hold onto the ball. That is the message Bulls coach Pote Human hopes his charges will take to heart when they take on the Blues in Auckland on Friday morning.
The Bulls have entered survival mode following their 22-10 defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra and need to win their remaining three matches to keep their play-off hopes alive. The Pretoria side arrived in Auckland with the weather gods smiling upon them, but Human said they expected rain two days before the clash.
“So far we have been lucky with the weather, and it is looking great, but they say it will rain (tomorrow) and Thursday,” Human said. “We hope it clears up on Friday night, but we will have to hold onto the ball and keep it away from them as they are a very good attacking side.”
The Bulls have slipped from the top of the South African conference to third place following their 22-10 defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra. They are just four points behind the leading Jaguares and a point adrift of the second-placed Sharks.
The Bulls will be without Springbok stalwarts Duane Vermeulen, and Handre Pollard for the New Zealand leg of their tour of Australasia and are expected to make a return in their match against the Lions in Pretoria next month.
“We have a really good team ... we will miss Pollard and Vermeulen in the next two games,” Human said. “The guys slotting into their places will have to show that they are good enough to play at this level.”
Human said he expected a big effort from his pack of forwards. “We will have to dominate up front and make sure we don’t make it easy them by suffocating them of any space to manoeuvre,” Human said.
“They have big backline players like Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams, who we expect to play over the weekend.”
Human cautioned against giving the Bulls’ dangerous backline time, space and possession.
“They really have exceptional backline players, and we have to make sure we don’t give them any space,” Human said. “We are working hard on our plans and are analysing what they have done in their previous games.”
Vermeulen left the field due to a neck injury but Bulls doctor Herman Rossouw said the injury was not severe and he would “soon make a full recovery”. Ruan Steenkamp has been called into the squad in Vermeulen’s place.
Pollard, who was ruled out of last weekend’s match against the Brumbies due to a calf strain, was also making good progress.@ockertde