Wikus van Heerden says a win for the Blue Bulls in their Absa Currie Cup match against the Cheetahs on Saturday is non-negotiable.
The Springbok and Bulls flanker says the team are acutely aware that a win in Bloemfontein will virtually secure them a home semi-final. They are just four points clear of the third placed Lions, but have an easier final fortnight with matches against the Griquas (away) and the Valke (home).
Defeat for the Bulls at Vodacom Park and victory for the log leading Sharks over the Valke would almost certainly erase any hope pf finishing top of the pile. That expected victory would see the Durban boys open up a seven point gap (assuming the Bulls don’t get a losing bonus point and the Sharks grab five points), with the Lions (away) and Griquas (home) to finish their league phase.
“We’re not taking anything away from the Griquas or Boland, we respect them, but we would back ourselves to win those games. That makes the Cheetahs game almost like a quarter-final for us in the sense that it would put us in a great position for a home play-off,” Van Heerden told keo.co.za.
“The Sharks are likely to beat the Valke and beat them well, and the Lions will fancy their chances of getting five points against Boland, so a defeat for us would make things very difficult. We want to control our own destiny in terms of a home semi-final and possibly a final, so we simply have to win. It’s vital.”
The Cheetahs will be desperate to arrest their slide of two successive defeats and keep the fifth placed Western Province at bay. This makes the Bulls’ task even more difficult.
“They’re the defending champions and that didn’t happen by accident. They’re a very competent team, especially at home, and desperate to stay in the hunt for a semi-final, so we know it’ll be a massive challenge to win there,” he said.
Van Heerden noted that despite the Cheetahs’ defeat to the Sharks last week they had been impressive in various facets play, particularly their loose forwards.
“The balance of that trio is very good with Hendro [Scholtz] playing towards the ball and Juan [Smith] and Duanne [Vermeulen] acting as their ball carriers. Then they have a guy like Heinrich [Brussow] coming off the bench. That’s a pretty potent group of loosies,” he said .
“They’re always good at the breakdown and we’ll have to work hard to counter them there, but we have a pretty good bunch ourselves I think.”
The “bunch” Van Heerden refers to is likely to comprise of Deon Stegmann, Pierre Spies and himself – the back row who performed brilliantly in the latter part of the Super 14. To add to their threat in that department they have Pedrie Wannenburg and potentially Dewald Potgieter to call on off the wood.
“Deon, Pierre and I didn’t get it right against the Sharks a couple of weeks ago but the more we train and play together the closer we get to the sort of partnership we’d developed during the Super 14,” he said.
“We have clearly defined roles – Pierre is a big ball carrier for us, I play primarily as a blindsider who also plays towards the ball at certain times and Deon is an out and out fetcher. We’ve combined well in the past and I’m sure if our tight forwards get going we can ask some questions of the Cheetahs.”
Regarding the composition of the team, Van Heerden said Danie Rossouw (heel injury) and Bryan Habana (hip and shoulder) played a limited role in Tuesday morning’s training session and took no contact.
“They looked okay and a call on their selection will be made later today [Tuesday]. They’re Springboks, so obviously they’re important players to have in your starting line-up, but we pride ourselves on our depth and while we hope they recover, we’re more than confident in whoever replaces them.”
By Ryan Vrede