Doubt over Olivier

Wynand Olivier is likely to start the Super 14 final at inside centre but a final decision will only be taken by Friday.

Other than the patient wait on the form midfielder, the Bulls have named an unchanged side from the one which fronted the Crusaders at Loftus in the semi-final.

Olivier had a gym session on Tuesday morning and will begin running on Wednesday, after which his fitness for the final can be better assessed.

When asked to assess Olivier’s chances on making the final based on the feedback from his medical staff, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke told keo.co.za, ‘we’re very positive.

‘We’ll make a call by Friday at the latest, but tomorrow [Wednesday] will be a good indication,’ he said.

Fifteen of the Bulls’ match 22 were in the squad for the final in 2007, but asked whether the experience the squad boasted would be a telling advantage, captain Victor Matfield said it wouldn’t.

‘I don’t think so, we have to look at it as a new game,’ he said. ‘It’s a final and anything can happen. It’s all about those 80 minutes, and who is going to use their opportunities.

‘So I don’t think having played in a final previously is going to play a major role, but it is nice to have that experience.’

The Bulls were full value for their 33-27 victory over the Chiefs in the league phase, but Ludeke said that result, and indeed an impressive overall home record against the Chiefs (they haven’t lost to the Chiefs at Loftus since 2001), counted for nothing.

‘It a totally new game, no previous records will count on Saturday,’ he said. ‘We can build on the foundation that was laid through the season, but we have to create new opportunities, finish those, make our first time tackles in defence and have a great work ethic for the whole game if we hope to win.’

Ludeke noted the Chiefs potency on the counter-attack and stressed that his side’s ball control and discipline had to be excellent to avoid being stung by their plethora of hot-steppers.

‘They’ve been fantastic throughout the season and if you look at some of the tries they scored, you have to respect them,’ he said.

‘They have some great broken field runners who can break the line and break tackles. So if we don’t control the ball well they can hurt us. We know we’re in for a tough game, but that said, we also have a brilliant side. We back our systems and are confident.’

The Bulls’ have exhibited a low-risk but brutally effective strategy en route to the final, and Ludeke said there was no reason to change their approach.

‘We believe in the basics and keeping it simple,’ he explained. ‘Everybody knows how we play. Even when I was at the Lions we knew what to expect from the Bulls.

‘There’s nothing extraordinary about the way we do things. It starts with good basics, solid set pieces, players who can get over the advantage line and controlling the ball at the breakdown as a means of building pressure. Then we get into the right areas and get points on the board.

‘But it’s been quite amazing to see that over the last four games we’ve had few opportunities to attack from set pieces. Most of those [opportunities] have come from broken field,’ Ludeke continued.

‘That [broken-field attack] and our scrummaging are areas we’ve made huge steps forward in recently. We’ve always had the players [to attack from broken field], but it’s a case of them getting rhythm and confidence and exploiting space. But I suspect on Saturday it will be tight, almost a Test match atmosphere, and in situations like that there’s normally not a lot of space or opportunities, so you have to be very accurate with the opportunities you have.’

By Ryan Vrede, at Loftus Versfeld

Bulls – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Jaco Pretorius/Marius Delport, 12 Wynand Olivier/Jaco Pretorius,11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Marius Delport/Gerhard van den Heever.