Lions captain Baywatch Grobbelaar believes the Bulls’ breakdown proficiency hasn’t been hampered by the loss of Wikus van Heerden.
Van Heerden was the Bulls’ stand-out forward in an otherwise disastrous Super 14 campaign last year, but he has since moved on to Saracens. Former SA U21 captain Dewald Potgieter has been assigned with filling Van Heerden’s role, and Grobbelaar believes Potgieter has proved why he’s been selected ahead of Bok Pedrie Wannenburg.
“Wikus is a great asset for any side,” Grobbelaar told keo.co.za, “so that is a loss for them. But all South African sides are blessed with quality loose forwards and the Bulls are no different with Dewald fitting in.”
Van Heerden combined with Deon Stegmann in a dual-fetcher system, and Grobbelaar feels Potgieter also has the ability at the breakdown to be a menace.
“Both he and Deon play towards the ball. If Dewald’s close to the contact points, he’ll hit those rucks, so he can play in that dual-fetcher role. The Bulls are also a good counter-rucking side,” said Grobbelaar.
The Lions conceded three penalties and six free kicks at the tackle area against the Sharks and Grobbelaar admitted they must improve in this regard.
“In the first game against the Cheetahs it was our tacklers not rolling away, then this weekend it was guys sealing off the ball. We have to be smarter and the main thing is to listen to the referee [Phillip Bosch] on Saturday,” he said.
Despite the Bulls’ impressive 59-26 hammering of the Blues, their defence was far from impenetrable as the Blues fashioned 17 linebreaks throughout the match but couldn’t capitalise.
Grobbelaar believes the key aspect to testing the blue line of defence is quick ball at ruck-time.
“We also missed a few tackles against the Sharks,” said the Lions skipper, “but we just need to get quick ball, that is vital. We must ensure their defensive lines aren’t organised and if we can do that then we’ll cause problems on attack.”
Set-piece execution will be crucial if they wish to get any decent ball, with the Lions’ lottery of a lineout an aspect that needs to be rectified.
“It must be sorted out. It’s no individual’s fault, it’s a combination of things. We are not jumping through the line and closing that space so the opposition are allowed to compete easily.”
Meanwhile, the Lions will be buoyed by the return of lock Jannes Labuschagne and flank Ernst Joubert from injury, providing coach Loffie Eloff with a couple of selection posers.
In other team news, Andre Pretorius is battling a hamstring niggle that occurred on Monday night. A call on his fitness will be made on Thursday.
By Grant Ball