Morne Steyn says the Reds’ Will Genia is quickly closing in on the standard Fourie du Preez set for scrumhalves and adds he will be the Bulls’ priority when the sides meet this weekend.
Du Preez, who left the Bulls last year to take up a contract with Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath, had often spoken of the Reds’ No 9 in glowing terms. He praised his distribution, decision-making under pressure and his tactical kicking. It is the latter attribute Steyn highlights as Genia’s most potent weapon.
‘There’s a perception the Reds run everything, but they play the percentages very well. Genia at No 9 is the reason for their ability to do this,’ Steyn told keo.co.za.
‘He and Fourie play very similar types of games. He just controls territory so well with his boot. The back three will have to get their positioning spot on to avoid being turned. Fourie is still in a class of his own but Genia is getting better with experience and I think he can be as good.’
Asked about the keys to nullifying Genia, Steyn said: ‘It is difficult to keep him completely quiet but a scrumhalf has limited influence if his pack is going backwards. We believe we have the pack of forwards to dominate theirs and that will go some way to reducing his influence. That said, he is a game breaker who can also create something out of nothing.’
The Reds have been hit by a string of injuries, most notably to flyhalf Mike Harris, who has already returned to Brisbane. Harris has been central to their success, converting the majority of the penalties they have created through pressure-building phase play and/or dominant defence. They have also dangerous winger Digby Ioane missing, his tip-tackle on Marcell Coetzee at the weekend earning him a five week suspension.
The Bulls have lost flank Deon Stegmann to injury but have been boosted by the return of midfielder Johann Sadie, who was injured in their opening match, while scrumhalf Francois Hougaard also makes a comeback following his one match ban for a dangerous tackle against the Cheetahs.
In light of the aforementioned points, the Bulls are widely expected to beat the defending champions at Loftus on Saturday. Steyn agreed that they are favourites but cautioned against underestimating the Reds.
‘We’ve been in situations like they have and pulled off wins against the odds,’ he said. ‘I don’t know how they will react to the setbacks but they are a team with a lot of character.’
Steyn added that the absentees are unlikely to influence their approach. ‘I don’t think they’ll play expansively,’ he said. ‘You saw how well they did by taking the Sharks on up front. The injuries came at bad times for them and so did Digby Ioane’s yellow card, so the result could have been very different.’
By Ryan Vrede