When Springbok centre Wynand Olivier turns out for the Bulls against the Sharks in their Super 14 match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, he will find himself at the same crossroads where he stood two years ago.
In 2006, when he was still an inexperienced inside centre, he was the weak link in midfield when the Bulls lost 21-27 at home to the Brumbies.
Morris Gilbert writes in Beeld that despite much criticism, coach Heyneke Meyer stood his ground and gave the blond youngster an opportunity to make up for his mistakes in the next match, against the Waratahs.
Olivier has to win psychological battle
Olivier repaid the trust with a fearless performance on defence. No one ever expressed any doubts about this part of his game again – until last Saturday when the Crusaders exposed problems in midfield, where Olivier and JP Nel were partners.
Olivier said at the start of the season he wanted to make 2008 his best Super 14 year yet and that he would look at himself critically.
The time arrived earlier than he might have expected. As he did two years ago, he has to win a psychological battle against himself to make the difference that is expected of him against the Sharks.
The Springbok has been by far the most innovative Bulls centre for the past few seasons. He would not have played for South Africa had his skills on defence and attack not been up to scratch.
But now he is one of the seniors in the backline and he cannot afford to make basic mistakes.
Nel, Hougaard will have to pull up their socks
Olivier will be playing in his 33rd Super rugby match and has appeared in 21 Test matches. Now the 24-year-old has to lead by example.
Nel and flyhalf Derick Hougaard also have to pull up their socks because the Bulls lack punch in midfield. Hougaard played well, tactically, against the Stormers, but did not meet expectations against the Crusaders. His defence, and that of Nel, was not satisfactory.
Bulls team doctor Tommie Smook said on Tuesday chances were good that World Cup Springboks Bakkies Botha and Akona Ndungane would be considered for the match against the Sharks, a repeat of last year’s Super 14 final in Durban.
Smook said: “None of them showed any effects from the practice session on Monday, but we will be able to say only on Wednesday evening whether the two would be fit to play against the Sharks.”Tweet