Stegmann : Pressure made Blue Bulls stronger

Blue Bulls captain Deon Stegmann says the team’s poor start to the Currie Cup and their ability to bounce back will hold them in good stead ahead of their semi-final clash against Western Province in Cape Town on Saturday.

“It is kind of a new competition starting on Saturday, the last few games we’ve been under massive pressure to get into the semi-final and we knew that as well,” Stegmann said in Pretoria on Thursday.

“It was satisfying to watch the players coming together and perform…that is a huge positive we can take out of that.”

The Bulls opened their campaign with two demoralising defeats, but made great strides towards the end of the round-robin stages to qualify for the playoffs.

Like many pundits, Stegmann believed the semi-final result would be determined by the performances of the two packs of forwards.

“It is definitely going to be a collision game, both packs are good and that is where the game will be won or lost,” he said.

“The last few weeks we’ve had some good games especially upfront, and I think our scrums and mauls are really good.

“We want to go express ourselves on the pitch and play to our strength.”

Meanwhile, Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard will start the match at inside centre.

Pollard would replace the injured Burger Odendaal for the match at Newlands in one of two backline changes made by coach Frans Ludeke.

While Pollard has distinguished himself as a world-class flyhalf, Ludeke has stuck with regular pivot Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

Ludeke believed having the duo alongside each other would benefit the team.

“They are decision makers more than kickers and it is what he (Pollard) brings as a thinker, when you are under pressure it helps a lot to have that option,” Ludeke said.

In the other change, Rudy Paige would start at scrumhalf, with Piet van Zyl relegated to the bench.

Pollard came off the bench against Griquas last weekend, and his place on the bench would be taken by Sampie Mastriet.

In the pack, Ludeke rotated Marcel van der Merwe and Werner Kruger, with the latter set to start.

Stegmann said there was no need to motivate the team as they go in search of their 24th Currie Cup title.

“You don’t want to make the occasion bigger than it already is, all the players realise it is a semi-final especially away from home.

“We know what we are in for everyone is eager to get onto the pitch and there is not a lot of words that needed to be said.”

Ludeke said the team knew full well what was expected of them as they face the pace-setting team on their home-ground.

“We need a special performance this weekend as we go up against an in form side that deserve to be playing at home,” Ludeke said.

“When the match starts, it is all about the team that can handle the pressure and finishing the opportunities they create.”

Blue Bulls

Ulrich Beyers, Akona Ndungane, William Small-Smith, Handre Pollard, Bjorn Basson, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Jono Ross, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann (captain), Grant Hattingh, Paul Willemse, Werner Kruger, Bongi Mbonambi, Dean Greyling.

Replacements: Callie Visagie, Marcel van der Merwe, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Wiaan Liebenberg, Piet van Zyl, Sampie Mastriet, Jesse Kriel.

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