Blue Bulls out to finish on a high

2011-05-12 14:22

After a rollercoaster start to the season, the Blue Bulls will be out to finish on a victorious note when they travel to Potchefstroom for Friday’s Vodacom Cup final against the Pampas XV.

The Pretoria-based outfit finished the round-robin phase of the competition in fourth place in the North section and failed to secure the home ground advantage they enjoyed in the final over the last three years.

But it is the fifth consecutive season that the Blue Bulls have made it to the last match of the competition although this time round they are not the team with the most momentum heading into the match. The Pampas have won 10 on the trot and a lot of credit has to go to their backline players who are proving that exposure to Sevens rugby is priceless in the development of both attacking and defensive skills.

Set to play his fourth final for the defending champions, Blue Bulls captain Gerrit-Jan van Velze said his side were prepared for another tough battle. “It doesn’t help looking back at the season wondering what we should have or could have done and what will happen afterwards,” said Van Velze. “It’s all about 80 minutes on Friday.”

One of the reasons the Blue Bulls struggled to get off to a solid start this season is because they lost long serving coach Nico Serfontein to the Lions.

Denzel Frans took over from Serfontein, and despite a few growing pains, he reached the final in his first year at the helm. “We didn’t have a good start to the season, but we kept believing in ourselves and that we can turn things around,” said Frans.

Like Van Velze, he insisted his players would not be too concerned about the path they followed to make the play-offs.
Frans instead highlighted that the Pampas would be testing his team in all facets of the game.

“You have to be structured against them and force set phases, but you must stop their momentum as well,” he said.
“They have a good backline backed by solid forwards so it will be important to win the collisions.”

The new Bulls mentor named an unchanged side for the match and will be expecting players like Van Velze, who are experienced in playing high pressure matches, to keep the younger men calm.

Not that experience in finals has given the Bulls a false sense of security. “We are privileged to have played in a few finals, but that cannot be seen as an advantage as this is a once-off match and we are playing the only undefeated team in the competition,” said Van Velze.

The big eighthman has only to reflect on last year’s final – which they won in the 81st minute with a Francois Brummer drop goal – to know how tough it is going to be to bag the R1 million in prize money. Brummer has since moved up to the Super Rugby side leaving Marnitz Boshoff and Tuks Varsity Cup captain Wesley Dunlop in charge of goal kicking.

“Fortunately Marnitz and Wesley are playing well and losing a guy like Francois to the Super Rugby team proves that hard work in this competition does not go by unnoticed,” Van Velze said.

As for the Argentinian Pampas XV who, like the World Cup winning Spanish soccer team, have almost become part of the close-knit Potchefstroom family. Victory will be the only prize worth taking after spending months away from home.

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