The Bulls have identified breakdown dominance as the key to success against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs are widely recognised as the tournament’s most dangerous side from turnover ball and have scored a large percentage of their 34 tries (the tournament’s second highest) in this manner.
The Bulls have been exposed in this facet of play at times in their campaign, particularly in the suspension-enforced absence of specialist openside flank Deon Stegmann. Failure in this regard will compound an already arduous defensive task, and coach Frans Ludeke is determined that his charges front in the deck war.
‘We’ve been up and down in terms of our dominance at the collisions but it is a part of our play that’s improved in the last couple of weeks. That sets the tone for the breakdown. If you’re getting dominated in contact you struggle to retain the ball on the deck,’ Ludeke told keo.co.za.
‘The Chiefs are superb from turnover ball and we know that they can trouble us if they are fed with opportunities to attack in that way. It’ll be our a primary focus – getting speed in our recycle at the breakdown on our ball and trying to slow theirs. If we can manage that we’ll make our task a lot easier.’
Bulls captain Victor Matfield echoed Ludeke’s sentiments.
‘Most games this season have been determined by who dominates the breakdown and I don’t think this one will be any different,’ Matfield said. ‘We see it as the most crucial facet of play.’
The inclusion of Stegmann in the run-on side should aid them in realising this objective. Stegmann’s value was apparent in his absence and Ludeke believes he’ll be a key player at Loftus.
‘Success at the breakdown is a collective effort and not the sole responsibility of an individual, but that said, Deon will set the tone for how we fare there,’ he said.
‘I thought he played really well when he came on against the Brumbies last week considering he had been out for so long and we’ll be looking for a big contribution from him, as he will of himself.’
Matfield said the Chiefs were one of the best balanced sides in the tournament, making it difficult to predict whether they would adopt an expansive approach or a direct one.
‘Either way we feel prepared,’ he said. ‘We have one of the quickest loose trios in the tournament, so if they look to spread the play we’ll be able to counter that. Alternatively if they play directly we pride ourselves our forward play and will be up for the challenge.’
By Ryan Vrede