Victory over the Cheetahs in the Super 14 rugby match in Bloemfontein on Saturday will be the fulfilment of a decision the Bulls took after their 53-22 defeat against the Hurricanes earlier this season.
“We’ve been justifiably criticised for our Super 14 performances,” Bulls captain Fourie du Preez said on Wednesday.
“But we also deserve recognition for the way we got up after five consecutive defeats.
“The loss against the Hurricanes was, in my opinion, the turning point. That evening we all decided enough was enough
“And we have shown since, with victories over the Highlanders, the Waratahs and the Brumbies, there is still much fire and pride left in the Bulls,” Du Preez said.
Morris Gilbert of Beeld reports that the Bulls wanted to finish the Super 14 season in such a way that people would remember why they had been, in 2007, the first South African team to win the competition, he added.
The star scrumhalf and Bulls coach Frans Ludeke agree that a lot of prestige is at stake for their team as well as the Cheetahs, even though neither team is in the running for the semi-finals.
“Local derbies always produce tough battles,” Ludeke said. “One should remember that the Cheetahs can ensure that, by winning on Saturday, they don’t finish last on the points table.
“A fourth successive win for the Bulls will ensure that we can start the Currie Cup competition with great momentum and confidence.”
Ludeke feels the 49 tries that the Cheetahs have conceded this season are not a sign of poor defence.
Whether the channel between the outside centre and the left wing is a weak link is still a debatable question.
“The Cheetahs were seldom outclassed this season and they were unfortunate in several of their matches,” Ludeke said.
“They are playing good rugby and the history of matches between these two teams shows it will be a hard match.
Ludeke has made only one change to the run-on team that beat the Brumbies. Pedrie Wannenberg takes the place of flanker Wikus van Heerden, who is injured.
The Bulls team:
Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JP Nel, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez (capt); Pierre Spies, Pedrie Wannenburg, Deon Stegmann, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Bakkies Botha, Werner Kruger, Derick Kuün, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Substitutes: Bandise Maku, Rayno Gerber, Jaco Engels, Danie Rossouw, Francois Hougaard, Burton Francis and Hilton Lobberts.