Bulls & Sharks start Currie Cup on equal footing

Depleted of their Springboks, the Blue Bulls and Sharks will be on equal footing in their Currie Cup opener in Durban on Saturday.

The Blue Bulls, however, go out with the mission of beating the Sharks on their home turf, a feat the Pretoria side could not accomplish even with their Boks present in the last five years.

New Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar this week said they had a score to settle when they travel to coast.

“I think it is always difficult to play in Durban but I told the team that we last won there in 2006,” said Pienaar.

The teams will take confidence from the number of Currie Cup debutantes in their respective sides.

“You can look at all the teams and say for example – the Sharks are losing this many players – but they still have experienced players in the side,” said Pienaar.

“We have a good mixture of experienced players and some youngsters that are coming through the ranks.

“The other teams are in the same boat as us and it will depend on how you perform on the day.”

The Sharks have a new front row of Wiehan Herbst, Dale Chadwick and Craig Burden while the Blue Bulls will have skipper Gary Botha at hooker to anchor the scrum with Rossouw de Klerk and Corne Fourie.

“The tight five is full of confidence and players like Juandre Kruger and Fudge Mabeta will relish the opportunity,” said Pienaar.

The coastal team also have a lucky charm in Frenchman Freddie Michalak who emulated compatriot Thierry Lacroix by winning a Currie Cup title with the Sharks in 2008.

The backline is further strengthened by experienced players like Meyer Bosman, Louis Ludik and former Springbok centre Marius Joubert who would make his debut in the black and white strip.

The Blue Bulls on the other hand would call on the experience of Springbok winger Akona Ndungane and regular Currie Cup campaigners Gerhard van den Heever and the centre pairing of Stefan Watermeyer and Stephan Dippenaar.

Pienaar said, despite the loss of regular starting players, the team knew the structures well and what is expected of them.

“We know it will be tough but we will have to be as effective as we can,” said Pienaar.

Meanwhile, in the first match on Saturday last year’s Currie Cup runners up Western Province will take on Griquas at Newlands in Cape Town.

Province will be without most of their Super Rugby squad against a Griquas team that will be boosted by a number of players who were part of the Cheetah’s Super Rugby campaign.

The Kimberley side has a tendency of starting out strong which is something Western Province need to take into account.

Last year Griquas won four out of their first six matches, including victories over the Sharks and the Golden Lions.

The Free State Cheetahs will host the Platinum Leopards in Bloemfontein in the second Currie Cup clash on Saturday.

The Bloemfontein team will look very different to the Super Rugby team as a number players returned to Griquas with a handful on Springbok duty.

They are, however, playing on their home ground and will be looking for bonus points against the Leopards, who have been the whipping boys in the last two seasons.

The Leopards will be an entire new side to the one that received a 78-7 drubbing the last time the sides met.

The side lost all of last year’s Currie Cup matches and new coach Leon Boshoff will hope to break their losing streak with a win over the Cheetahs.

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