The Bulls, who face the Waratahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, don’t want to play the role of Santa Claus in the Super 14 rugby competition.
Morris Gilbert writes in Beeld that they want to beat the Australians because they owe it to themselves; not to improve the chances that the Sharks and the Stormers have of reaching the semi-finals, says Wikus van Heerden
Van Heerden, who will again captain the 2007 champions this week, said on Wednesday the Bulls wanted to start building confidence and momentum for the Currie Cup competition.
“If we can assist any other South Africans (by beating the Waratahs) it will be fine.”
Asked whether all the rumblings off the field might influence the team’s performance, Van Heerden said it had been “just as any other Super 14 week” during training.
“We should be professional enough not to be put off by outside factors. Our only problem is what we should do to produce a really good performance against the Waratahs,” Van Heerden said.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke agreed with the Springbok that the Waratahs would be a tough nut to crack.
“They play good, disciplined rugby and there is a lot at stake for them,” Ludeke said.
Asked whether he also felt the Waratahs tended to finish more strongly than they start, Ludeke said he’d rather refer to them as “an 80-minute team”.
As was expected, only one change has been made to the Bulls’ starting lineup.
Francois Hougaard takes over at scrumhalf from the injured Heini Adams. Springbok Fourie du Preez returns after his hand injury by joining the substitutes on the bench.
Du Preez will be able to play if it comes to the push but Ludeke would like to see him have a little more time to recover. Therefore, Hougaard could play for the full 80 minutes if he is not injured.
The Waratahs have brought fiery loose forward Rocky Elsom back and will have five forwards on the bench – in indication of the physical onslaught they expect.
Bulls: Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JP Nel, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Wikus van Heerden (capt), Deon Stegmann, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Bakkies Botha, Werner Kruger, Derick Kuun, Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Substitites: Bandisa Maku, Jaco Engels, Rayno Gerber, Danie Rossouw, Fourie du Preez, Derick Hougaard and Pedrie Wannenburg.
Waratahs: Sam Norton-Knight, Lachie Turner, Rob Horne, Tom Carter, Lote Tuqiri, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Wycliff Palu, Phil Waugh (capt), Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman, Dean Mumm, Al Baxter, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Substitites: Adam Freier, Matt Dunning, Will Caldwell, David Lyons, Sekope Kepu, Matt Carraro and Brett Sheehan.