Bulls side unchanged for Saturday’s clash with Cheetahs

2009-10-28 00:00

THE Bulls have named an unchanged side, including 10 Springboks in their starting line-up, for the Currie Cup final against the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus on Saturday evening.

Springbok wing Bryan Habana has been passed fit following the hamstring strain he suffered against Western Province in the semi-final, but hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, who missed the Newlands play-off, is still struggling with a hairline fracture in his foot and he was not considered for selection. Bandise Maku is again the reserve hooker.

In addition to their 10 internationals in the starting line-up, the Bulls have two Bok forwards in Danie Rossouw and Pedrie Wannenburg on the bench and they are close to full strength. Only one player, wing Francois Hougaard, did not start in the Super 14 final two months ago. He has taken over from Akona Ndungane, who broke his leg at the start of the Currie Cup.

The Blue Bulls are hoping to negate the Free State Cheetahs in the scrums and at the breakdown on their way to completing a Super14-Currie Cup double.

The Super 14 champions were given off last week by coach Frans Ludeke and the players have reportedly trained with energy this week.

Ludeke said the focus of the Bulls’ preparations is on the scrum and the breakdown after the Cheetahs excelled in those areas in downing the Sharks in the semi-finals. He also believes alignment in defence would be critical in a tight final.

“The outcome of the match could well be determined by turnover possession, a poor scrum or guys out of position in broken play,” Ludeke told reporters.

“We need numbers at the breakdowns and we have to ensure good possession at the scrums.”

Ludeke said he has confidence in the Bulls’ ability to contest at the scrum and the breakdown.

“We’re confident in our scrum,” he said. “We back ourselves and we also have some capable players at breakdown.

“The most important thing will be to focus for 80 minutes. Accuracy will be very important and we’ll have to apply pressure for 80 minutes. Finals are won by character and we must be ready to grasp any opportunity that comes out way.”

Ludeke again called in former Springbok prop and Sharks scrum coach Balie Swart this week.

“Too much is being made of supposed weaknesses in the Bulls’ scrum and supposed strength of the Cheetahs’ scrum,” said Swart. “Scrumming is about eight players that have to do the same thing over and over as a unit. It’s eight hearts and 16 feet that will determine who moves forward,” he said.

Ludeke would not be drawn on the possibility of the Bulls completing a Super14-Currie Cup double in the same season.

“It’s a new season and the Super 14 is a closed door,” he said. “We know it’ll be a tough contest, but if we focus on our own game we have a good chance.”

Captain Victor Matfield said the Currie Cup hype in Pretoria is palpable.

”We’re a little nervous. It could be a great day or a massive disappointment, but it is an occasion to be enjoyed,” he said.

Matfield said his Blue Bulls team-mate, Deon Stegmann, can match Free State and Bok flank Heinrich Brussow at the breakdown.

Matfield added that the “carrot” of two titles in the same season is an additional incentive.

“It will be amazing to do that in one year, both times at Loftus,” he said. “It’s easy to motivate the guys.”

The final kicks off at 5.30 on Saturday.

Blue Bulls team:

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever

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