Bulls have the edge in experience in Currie Cup

The experience of the Blue Bulls will be a major factor in the Currie Cup final against the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

 

And their backline is a much underrated one.

Those are the views emanating from Bloemfontein and, in particular, from the Cheetahs’ training staff in the usual psychological pre-match games.


There is plenty of truth in both these views, however. No less than 14 of the Blue Bulls’ starting line-up for Saturday played in the starting XV for the franchise’s Super 14 final against the Chiefs at the end of May.


The one exception is Francois Hougaard who is on the wing in place of the injured Springbok Akona Ndungane who has a broken leg.


And while that speaks of great continuity in the Bulls and Blue Bulls camp, there is also the impressive statistic that no less than eight of them were involved in the 2005 final against the Free State, won 29-25 at Loftus by visitors.


Wynand Olivier (centre), Bryan Habana (wing), Morné Steyn (flyhalf), Fourie du Preez (scrumhalf), Pedrie Wannenburg (flank), Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw (all locks) and Heini Adams (scrumhalf) are the players in this year’s squad who were involved in the 2005 final.


Added to this list, fullback Zane Kirchner, hooker Derick Kuun, flank Deon Stegmann and Pierre Spies all started in last year’s final, lost 14-9 to the Sharks in Durban, while Werner Kruger and Dewald Potgieter played off the bench.


Of Saturday’s 22-man squad, it is, therefore, only replacement hooker Bandise Maku, Springbok Jaco Pretorius who played in a final for the Golden Lions, Under-21 prop Rossouw de Klerk and Francois Hougaard who have not been involved in a Blue Bulls final.


Replacement flyhalf Burton Francis was also on the bench last year. This will be the Blue Bulls’ eighth final since 2002, with the clash between the Free State and the Lions in Bloemfontein in 2007 the only one they missed out on.


Former Springbok great Os du Randt, who is also the Free State’s scrum coach, views the present Blue Bulls team a better one than that of 2005, when he played for the victorious Cheetahs at Loftus.


According to Sport24, Du Randt believes the Bulls are the overwhelming favourites to win the Currie Cup as they have a number of world class players in their ranks.


He also feels that the Blue Bulls, having been in two Super 14 finals in two years, will have gained experience and learned from that.


The only Free Staters who were involved in the 2005 final who will play at Loftus on Saturday are three of their Springboks, loosehead prop Wian du Preez, replacement flank Kabamba Floors and centre Meyer Bosman.


Free State backline coach Hawies Fourie also praised the Blue Bulls backline which, he says, is more than just a unit built on the kicking ability of Morne Steyn.


The appointment of former Springbok wing Pieter Rossouw has seen a change in the Blue Bulls’ mostly predictable approach, said Fourie in Bloemfontein.


He also pointed out that they have some great game breakers in players like Olivier and Habana and believes that the inclusion of Steyn this year further enhanced the back play of the Blue Bulls.

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