Bulls look to rescue season

2012-10-16 00:00

THE Blue Bulls, thrown a late lifeline in a disappointing season, will prove dangerous opponents for the Currie Cup log-leading Sharks in Saturday’s semi-final at King’s Park.

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford said yesterday that the Bulls will see the semi-final as a perfect opportunity to rescue their season.

“We’ve played the Bulls often enough to know what to expect from them. They would have looked at this year and felt they haven’t played that well, but have sneaked into the play-offs. And that was the opportunity they were chasing, a chance to turn their whole season around. They’ll be a really tough nut, coming here believing that they can beat us.”

Bashford said the coaching staff was particularly happy with the Sharks’ defence in their 42-3 weekend win over Griquas.

“Griquas had scored more tries than any other team in the tournament, and we didn’t allow them to cross our line. Our tackle stats were at 93%, and then we scored five tries. It really was a good balanced performance for the team.”

Bashford joined head coach John Plumtree in praising the efforts of returning Springbok Pat Lambie.

“At half-time Pat said he felt a bit rusty, but his second-half performance was an improvement on his first. All he needed was some game time under the belt and getting 80 minutes against Griquas was hugely important. He will also take confidence out of that man-of-the-match performance.”

Bashford said that the returning Springboks had been successfully reintegrated into the team.

“We were really happy with the performance. There is always competition for places and guys who needed game time played.”

Bashford said the Sharks were delighted the Currie Cup would be decided in Durban as long as they kept winning.

“We didn’t have things go our way in the Super Rugby tournament with all that travelling and last year we were the losing finalists in the Currie Cup up in Johannesburg.

“Earning the right to host a home semi is huge for the union from a financial position, and we’ve put ourselves in a position — provided we play well this weekend — to host the final.”

But the Blue Bulls are also in positive mood ahead of the semi-final and yesterday were boosted by the news that all their players who were involved in beating the Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday had been passed fit.

The Bulls believe they have the momentum and form to down the Sharks and coach Pine Pienaar said yesterday that they could take confidence from their narrow 13-12 loss to the Sharks in the rain at King’s Park last month. “The conditions that night were very tough,” said Pienaar, “but the tactical plans we made for that game really worked well. If I have my calculations right, we haven’t beaten them in a Currie Cup game in Durban since 2006. But, after our recent game there, we definitely give ourselves a chance.”

Skipper Dewald Potgieter agreed.

“We played really well to beat the Sharks at Loftus [in the first round of the Currie Cup] and we nearly beat them in Durban. Even though we lost that game, we now know we can beat the Sharks in Durban.”

The semi-final kicks off at 4.30 pm on Saturday, followed by the Lions-WP play-off at Ellis Park at 7 pm.

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