Ludeke : Blue Bulls are hitting Currie Cup form

Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke says that even though they made a slow start in the Currie Cup they have now reached top form and are ready to seal a place in the Semi-finals with a victory over Griquas in Pretoria on Saturday.

“We had to work hard to get back into this situation, so we are grateful and we have one more match to go and would like to tie it up this weekend,” Ludeke said at the team announcement on Thursday.

“We are playing against a side that has other goals but what is important for us is where we are heading and we would like to do that with a good performance.”

The Bulls need a victory over the Peacock Blues to ensure they remain in fourth place in the final weekend of round-robin action.

With a two-point lead over the Free State Cheetahs in fifth place, and a four-point advantage over the Pumas, the Bulls could slip out of semi-final contention if they lost and either of the other two sides win their respective matches.

Meanwhile, Ludeke made five changes to the run-on side which included the return of Springbok prop Marcel van der Merwe from national duty, who would replace Werner Kruger in the starting XV, while Morne Mellett came in for Dean Greyling at loosehead prop.

Junior Springbok centre William Small-Smith replaced JJ Engelbrecht, who was one of the contracted South African players unavailable for Currie Cup selection.

“It is great to have him back William back after that injury he picked up against the Sharks. He’s got different strengths that he brings to the side,” Ludeke said.

“He will slot in there and we are confident he will do the job for us.”

Other changes to the backline saw Bjorn Basson earning a starting berth in place of Sampie Mastriet and scrumhalf Piet van Zyl rotating with Rudy Paige.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi was given the number-two jersey as part of his regular rotation with Callie Visagie, who would cover off the bench.

Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard would be on the bench and Ludeke was confident the star player would fully recover from an ankle injury.

“He is playing with a lot of confidence coming off a fine performance for the Springboks against New Zealand and we will tap into that,” Ludeke said.

“We need to make sure we beat Griquas well and will be looking for a bonus point, but we will have to build the innings first and make sure we play clever rugby.”

Ludeke felt his side’s performance in their 37-6 victory over the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday was possibly their best so far this season which was an encouraging sign ahead of Saturday’s clash.

“Playing well is vital for us. You have to be accurate in what you do, like last weekend against the Pumas — I thought it was most clinical performance,” he said.

“So peaking at the right time is vital and we feel like we are starting to hit our straps.”

Blue Bulls

Ulrich Beyers, Akona Ndungane, William Small-Smith, Burger Odendaal, Bjorn Basson, Jacques Louis Potgieter, Piet van Zyl, Jono Ross, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann (captain), Grant Hattingh, Paul Willemse, Marcel van der Merwe, Bongi Mbonambi, Morne Mellett.

Replacements: Callie Visagie, Werner Kruger, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Wiaan Liebenberg, Rudy Paige, Handre Pollard, Jesse Kriel.

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