Bulls brace for running onslaught

Frikkie Welsh says he expects the Vodacom Cheetahs to shelve a kicking game and adopt a ball-in-hand approach for the final.

The Cheetahs played a conservative tactical kicking game against the Sharks in the league fixture two weeks ago but showed their tactical versatility in the semi-final against the same opponents by running in three tries through backline moves.

In the last encounter between the Bloemfontein – and Pretoria-based sides, the Cheetahs again showed their aptitude for attacking play when they ran in five tries against the Bulls at Loftus in a 41-31 defeat.

“They ran from inside their 22m area against us at Loftus and we all know how dangerous they were then,” he told Keo.co.za. “That’s worked for them all season and I don’t see them changing to a kicking game, especially at home.”

The Cheetahs are possibly the most balanced side in the competition, with a renowned ability to adapt their tactics to whatever the game situation demands. Welsh is acutely aware of this and said the Bulls were prepared for a tactical surprise by Rassie Erasmus’ charges.

“The thing that makes them a really good side is their ability to vary their tactics,” he explained. “We are prepared for both scenarios, because with the massive boot of Bevan [Fortuin] and Willem [De Waal], they can make you pay off the boot.

“You only need to win this game to become champions. You don’t need bonus points or frantic running rugby, so that might result in them being more conservative. But I don’t think so because they are a dangerous attacking unit at Vodacom Park,” he added.

The defending champions have been formidable at home in the Absa Currie Cup, losing once (to the Bulls), scoring 341 points and conceding 140 in 8 games. Welsh though said their defensive structures were excellent and suggested that they could make the Cheetahs rue a cavalier approach.

“If they try and play an expansive game it could benefit them or it could give us an opportunity to put some points on the board ourselves if their execution is not spot on. We’ll put pressure on their runners and hopefully create some turnover possession which would allow us to counterattack.”

The Bulls backline has itself been a fantastic unit in recent weeks, but in his assessment of who he thought would be their key players, Welsh hinted that their gameplan would revolve around the boot of Loftus’ liefling.

“Derick Hougaard will be very important for us, as will the back three,” he said. “In a tight game like this you don’t want to take too many risks and we’ll look to keep the pressure on them.”

Contrary to media reports Welsh confirmed he will not play in the Absa Currie Cup final. He has been nursing a thigh injury and on Monday was declared fit to play in the showpiece match. He was non-committal about the reasons for his exclusion.

“Ja, it’s very disappointing to miss out,” he said.”Every players dreams of playing in the Currie Cup final and I’m no different. It’s just one of those things.”

He did remain upbeat about the situation though. “The guys are really excited about this match and there’s a awesome vibe in the camp. The build-up to the final is something you only appreciate if you are involved in the match,” he said.

“We’ve got this far and we’ll be looking to make it count this time.”

By Ryan Vrede