Sharks skipper AJ Venter, who leads his team into the Blue cauldron of Loftus on Friday night, won’t be affected by the hype surrounding the game.
“The only pressure we’re feeling is the pressure of rectifying what happened in the Super 14 game in April,” Venter told keo.co.za. “Last week’s game doesn’t feature in our minds. We’ve moved past that as a team. Our challenge now is to fix what went wrong the last time we faced these guys.”
The two sides produced one of the games of the Super 14, with the Vodacom Bulls resisting a relentless second-half barrage by the Sharks to win 34-27. In fairness, the Pretoria based side deserved to win. Their forward play was sublime and was wholly responsible for their 27-3 half-time lead.
It’s an open secret that the Bulls will attempt to reproduce the gameplan that saw them triumph on that day, but Venter warns that you consider the Bulls a one dimensional team at your peril. “They have a fantastic backline too,” he said, “They are all attacking and physical in their approach. We don’t underestimate them at all.”
One point of interest will be to see how the 19-year-old Brad Barrit stands up to Pedrie Wannenburg, Warren Brosnihan and Tim Dlulane attacking his channel from the base of the scrums, rucks and mauls. Barritt prides himself on his defence and he, together with inside centre Gobani Bobo, will have to be impenetrable in this facet of play to prevent the Bulls gaining momentum and taking on juggernaut-like characteristics.
Venter concedes that Butch James’s Springbok call-up will have a two-fold impact.
“Butch is a big loss because not only is he a phenomenally skillful player, but he is also a senior member of this team. You need guys like that when you play games like this.” But the hard man believes the Springboks will benefit greatly by playing James. “We think that Butch will spark a fire in the Springboks that has been missing at No.10. He’ll make a huge difference.”
Two loses in succession will be a big blow to Dick Muir’s side, but his skipper refuses to think that far or that negatively. “A win will mean a lot to us because the Bulls are a very good side,” Venter said. “But Naas Botha once said: ‘The Currie Cup is not won in July’ , so we’re not putting any unnecessary pressure on ourselves.”
By Ryan Vrede