Blue Bulls looking to close the gap in Currie Cup

The Blue Bulls will be looking to close the gap between themselves and the Currie Cup front-runners when they take on log-leaders Western Province at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

The hosts proved last weekend against the Free State Cheetahs that they could up the ante against a quality side when they beat the visitors 26-10.

Ahead of that match Bulls coach Pine Pienaar said the Bloemfontein side would be their biggest challenge yet in the competition.

With his charges passing the test unscathed, they now go head-to-head with Western Province, the only unbeaten side in the competition.

Province have arguably the most dangerous backline in the Currie Cup with strike runners like Cheslin Kolbe, Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh posing a constant threat on attack.

“They have an exceptional backline and they have guys that can create something out of nothing,” Pienaar said.

“They have a lot of experience in the backs and players with a lot of X-factor.

“So if we give them a bit of space, and a bit of broken field they will punish you, they have the ability to do that and they have shown that up to now.”

The north-south derby traditionally evokes the deepest of emotions from supporters and often comes down to a battle of attrition.

Bulls captain Jono Ross said while they were conscious of the age-old rivalry between the two sides, the team had to approach each game with the same intent.

“Every week we have to get ourselves up, there is no easy game in this Currie Cup,” Ross said.

“We understand the history that’s gone before us and this has been a massive derby.”

In their first round match in Cape Town the sides played to a 24-24 draw, but both teams have made improvements since the opening weekend of the competition.

Province is fresh off a confidence-boosting victory over the Sharks in their top-of-the-log clash at Newlands.

The Capetonians may be leading the log, but as the strength-against-strength format has proven, changes on the points table is rather like the weather.

Meanwhile, the Bulls announced on Friday that centre Ulrich Beyers failed a late fitness test and would be replaced by Waylon Murray in the starting line-up.

Murray has shown great form when he has come off the bench and even in his start against the Cheetahs last week.

His original place on the bench will be filled by the talented mid-fielder, William Small-Smith.

Blue Bulls

Jurgen Visser, Sampie Mastriet, Waylon Murray, Francois Venter, Akona Ndungane, Handre Pollard, Rudy Paige, Jono Ross (captain), Jacques du Plessis, Wiaan Liebenberg, Grant Hattingh, Paul Willemse, Frik Kirsten, Bongi Mbonambi, Marcel van der Merwe.

Replacements: Bandise Maku, Dean Greyling, David Bullbring, Jacques du Plessis, Lohan Jacobs, William Small-Smith, Clayton Blommetjies.

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