Blue Bulls have a Currie Cup mountain to climb

It is make or break for both the Free State Cheetahs and Blue Bulls in their last Currie Cup group game at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

A mere win would be good enough for the Cheetahs to advance to the knockout stages, while the task was much more difficult for the Bulls.

The visitors would need a five-point victory and a winning margin of more than eight points. They would also need to prevent the Cheetahs from scoring a single bonus point if they were to advance to the semi-finals.

“This is crunch time. We’ve spoken amongst ourselves and we are well aware of what is on the line,” Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské said.

“We know that for one of us it is going to be glory and for the other goodbye. A single log point may be good enough, but we want at least four.”

With his Springboks back in selection contention, Drotské chose to start with Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen who would partner with another Bok, Trevor Nyakane, to bolster the hosts in the scrums.

“We are happy Adriaan and Coenie are back. With an all-Springbok front row we will definitely be out to try and dominate the scrums.

“We will put much trust in them, as well as our loose trio of Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne and Boom Prinsloo. We want to be very physical on attack as well as defence and our forwards will be the go to guys for that.”

Bok centres JJ Engelbrecht and Jan Serfontein were back for the Bulls, while Juandré Kruger, Morné Steyn and Zane Kirchner left for overseas as soon as the Rugby Championship concluded, leaving Pine Pienaar and his squad at a slight disadvantage.

Added to that, his side faced a near impossible challenge to advance, and the pressure was beginning to mount on the visitors.

“We are under a lot of pressure and need to score tries so we have decided to include a number of ball carriers for the game,” Pienaar said.

“Guys like Jono Ross and Jacques Engelbrecht will have to get us over the advantage line so we can give our back line good ball to work with.”

The Cheetahs had been heralded as one of the better lineout outfits in the competition, but the Bulls would travel to Bloemfontein with the wisdom of former Springbok lock and lineout master Victor Matfield.

Their lineouts, however did not go as smoothly as planned last week against the Sharks, but Pienaar maintained it was still one of their strong points.

“Victor does excellent work with regards to the lineouts and we are confident we can compete well with the Cheetahs.

“We have a young team in our midst and it is important that we do the basics right against the Cheetahs before anything else.

“We need possession if we want to play our brand of rugby. That is the most important thing on the day.”

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