Currie Cup: Bulls coach names unchanged team for semi-final clash against Sharks

2012-10-18 00:00

FRANCOIS Hougaard, one of only two Blue Bulls in the current Springbok starting line-up, will be on the bench for Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Sharks in Durban.

While the Sharks have delayed naming their line-up until today, Bulls coach Pine Pienaar yesterday named an unchanged team for the trip to King’s Park with Jano Vermaak retained at scrumhalf ahead of Hougaard.

Hougaard played on the wing in Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok team but there had been speculation that Pienaar would include the dangerous attacker at the base of the scrum against the Sharks. But yesterday Pienaar resisted the temptation to make any changes, retaining Vermaak at scrumhalf with former Test players Bjorn Basson and Akona Ndungane on the wings.

The Bulls have nine Springboks in their starting line-up, and three more on the bench, but of the dozen only two, fullback Zane Kirchner and Hougaard, started against the All Blacks at Soccer City.

This is the first time this season that Pienaar, in keeping to the 22 players who downed the Golden Lions at Ellis Park last Saturday, has been able to name an unchanged squad on consecutive weekends and he believes this will provide his team with momentum.

“This semi-final will be won by the team which executes their game plan best. We are pleased we have some momentum with us following the return of our Springboks. We finished well last weekend and we will have to start well as the Sharks have proved many times that they know how to close out games when leading on the scoreboard.”

Blue Bulls captain, Dewald Potgieter, said that half his squad had won the Currie Cup title in the past and they knew that a special effort would be needed.

“We have had our backs to the wall for long spells this season, but responded every time … They won’t quit and that will be the mind-set again this weekend against a Sharks team that is well respected, but not unbeatable.”

Sharks coach John Plumtree obviously settled on his starting line-up at the start of the week but he will not release the 22 names until after Odwa Ndungane, Jacques Botes and Steven Sykes have undergone fitness tests.

Plumtree is certain to include his returning Springboks — Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira, Craig Burden, Willem Alberts and Marcell Coetzee — in the 22-man squad, but the Sharks coach is wary of breaking the team’s continuity and one or two of them may start off the bench.

There is also the possibility that one of his two big backrowers, Alberts or Jean Deysel, could be used at lock.

But the most difficult selection is at scrumhalf where he has to choose between the experienced Charl McLeod and the energetic young Cobus Reinach.

“Cobus is playing really well but I thought Charl did some good things when he came on [as a replacement] against Griquas. You need to have two good scrumhalves and both are putting pressure on each other and on me to select them,” said Plumtree.

Kick-off is at 4.30 pm and one of SA’s senior referees, Mark Lawrence, will be in charge. Marius Jonker will referee the Lions-WP semi- final at 7 pm on Saturday.

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