Blue Bulls head coach Pine Pienaar says he will use all seven of his Springboks for their must-win Currie Cup clash against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg.
The Bulls are struggling at the foot of the table and need to beat the Lions on Saturday to avoid the wooden spoon.
Their poor form displayed throughout the domestic campaign suggests they’ll be the underdogs heading into this game, but their returning Test players changes things.
Pienaar will have flyhalf Morne Steyn, locks Juandre Kruger and Flip van der Merwe, fullback Zane Kirchner, flanks Arno Botha and Jacques Potgieter, and scrumhalf Francois Hougaard available for selection. He confirmed to this site that he’ll ease all seven internationals into his match-day squad for the trip to Ellis Park.
However, he also realised that their inclusions could threaten the cohesion of the team.
Last year, the Springboks that returned from the World Cup were rushed into their respective Currie Cup sides during the play-off rounds. This had a negative impact on the Sharks and WP, who were easily beaten by eventual champions the Lions in the semi-final and final respectively.
Pienaar believes this won’t be the case for the Bulls.
‘It won’t be about the individual,’ Pienaar told keo.co.za. ‘I will be making careful selections to make sure we have the best team out there. I will be using all seven Springboks … some of them will be in the starting line-up and others will make an impact off the bench.
‘The guys have shown great attitudes at training so far, and want to play. A guy like Morne, who was rested in recent weeks, could add the necessary accuracy we need to beat the Lions. But we’ll see how things work out.’
While victory should see the Bulls lift from last place, it could also see them sneak into the semi-finals if other results go their way.
The Sharks would have to beat Griquas in Durban, and WP would have to down the Free State Cheetahs at Newlands. These are the likely outcomes for these fixtures as the Sharks and WP will gain significant reinforcements from the Boks.
However, Pienaar stressed that his team needs to focus on their main job, which is to avoid relegation.
‘Our game against the Lions will be the last fixture of the weekend, so we will know what we have to do to jump up from last place before we run on to the field’ said Pienaar. ‘Our semi-final hopes are alive, but we will be concentrating on beating the Lions, which won’t be easy.
‘The Lions will also get several Boks back, so they’ll have a strong team. We can’t afford any poor discipline as a guy like Elton Jantjies will punish us with the boot. We also need to be accurate at our set-pieces … the Lions have the strongest scrum in the Currie Cup.
‘I was happy with our defensive and attacking efforts in our win over WP last weekend, and we need to carry that momentum into this match.’
By Gareth Duncan