Barring injury or a ban by the South African Rugby Union (Saru), Springbok captain Victor Matfield will play Currie Cup rugby for the Blue Bulls in Durban on Saturday again for the first time since 22 October 2005.
The way the Bulls trained on Tuesday, four of their returning Boks should make it into the starting side for the big battle against the Sharks.
Morris Gilbert writes in Beeld that Matfield’s last Currie Cup appearance for the Bulls was at Loftus Versfeld when the Cheetahs won the final 29-25 against all expectations.
But Matfield has pleasant memories of the previous time he saw action in the Shark tank in the light-blue jersey. That was last year when the Bulls snatched a last-minute victory in one of the most tense Super 14 finals ever.
The wing who scored the Bulls’ winning try that day, Bryan Habana, is the only Bulls Bok still fighting a battle against time.
Bulls physician Org Strauss says he is satisfied with the way Habana’s hamstring injury is progressing, but it is still too early to decide whether or not he can play. The decision can be postponed until Friday.
“Bryan has not yet run at full strength and the fact that his enormous explosive power is one of his assets as a wing has to make one even more careful about taking any chances.
“I can say that Bryan’s injury is responding so well to treatment that on Tuesday he already had an even chance to play against the Sharks,” Strauss added.
Habana’s last Currie Cup match was also in the Currie Cup final three years ago.
Did not attend training
The return of the Boks will mean at least five changes to the Bulls starting side that easily beat Western Province.
The lock pair Wilhelm Steenkamp and Juandré Kruger will be replaced by Matfield and Danie Rossouw respectively. Owing to a heel injury Rossouw will be able to practise again only on Friday. Kruger stood in for Rossouw on Tuesday.
Indications are that Pedrie Wannenburg will not only lose the no 8 jersey, but will not even make it on to the substitutes’ bench.
Wannenburg and centre Wayne Julies did not attend training on Tuesday, but spent time having their fitness honed in the gym.
Wannenburg will be replaced by Pierre Spies, who will be playing only in his sixth Currie Cup match. The last time was in the 2006 final when the Bulls and Cheetahs shared the spoils in Bloemfontein.
Fourie du Preez who, like Rossouw, has already played for the Bulls this season, will take over the No 9 spot from Francois Hougaard.
The Bulls are not concerned about the fact that Mark Lawrence will be the referee on the day. He also refereed the North/South derby last Friday and awarded nine penalties against the Bulls in the first half and only one in the second.
Johan van Graan, the Bulls’ forwards coach, said: “We were guilty every time of the infringement that Mark penalised us for and simply adapted too slowly to his style of refereeing. Once we’d mastered it, we were very seldom penalised.”Tweet