‘Shadow’ back for Soweto

Gerhard van den Heever returns to the Bulls’ run-on side for the final at Orlando Stadium.

Van den Heever missed the semi-final through suspension but returns in place of Jaco van der Westhuyzen, who plays off the bench.

Danie Rossouw is still being managed conservatively after a recurrence of a neck injury that has plagued him in recent years. A call on his fitness will be made on Wednesday, although team doctor Org Strauss told keo.co.za that there isn’t concern about his availability.

Dewald Potgieter also missed Tuesday’s session, although he looked comfortable when doing a fitness test on an injured thigh. Fourie du Preez, Wynand Olivier, Jaco Pretorius and Francois Hougaard all completed the session, allaying fears that they were in danger of missing the final after sitting out Monday’s practice.

‘Danie and Dewald will take another two or three days to recover fully but there are no concerns about their fitness for the final,’ head coach Frans Ludeke told keo.co.za.

Asked for his thoughts on the final Ludeke said, ‘We’re focussed on the process, not the result. There is a great energy in the squad and you can sense they’re up for the final.’

Whereas Monday’s training session was relatively low key, particularly for the backs, Tuesday saw the blue machine kick into gear with a series of intense and purposeful pattern-of-play exercises. From that it was evident that the Bulls will rely primarily on the pragmatic but highly effective kick-chase approach that has brought them sustained success in this campaign. However, they also looked slick when shifting the ball through phases in the half of the opposing reserves.

Defensively the focus was on fronting through numerous phases, a hallmark of the Stormers’ attacking style. Poor execution or structural disfunctionality was not tolerated by defence coach John McFarland, although it must be said that they were very precise throughout the exercise.

‘There has been a lot of talk this week but it boils down to who is most accurate in their execution on attack and defence on Saturday and who takes their chances,’ Ludeke said. ‘Also the team that adapts [to the opposition's tactics] quickest will have an edge.’

The Stormers have been bullish about their prospects in the final and Bulls skipper Victor Matfield welcomed that mindset. ‘Why wouldn’t they be confident? They’ve played very well to get here and they are a very good side,’ he said.

‘But we believe in our structures and what we’ve done to get us this far. One of the challenges for us this week is to ensure that the guys don’t expend their energy in the build up to the final. We want to channel all that energy into the match. Experience will help us achieve that.’

Bulls - 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 21 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 22 Pedrie Wannenburg.

By Ryan Vrede, in Pretoria