The Blue Bulls will sit back this weekend, enjoy a relaxing braai (barbeque) and watch all the Currie Cup drama unfold, returning next week refreshed for the play-offs.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has opted to rest a host of his Springboks – like Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Wynand Olivier and Pierre Spies – along with several other key players, for Friday’s final league match against the Falcons, writes Jan de Koning for Rugby365.
Having already qualified for the semifinals and also mindful of Bok coach Peter de Villiers’ request to “manage” the top players, the Bulls will field a virtual B-Team against the Falcons at Loftus Versfeld.
And the frontline players are relishing the opportunity to watch a weekend of high drama from the sidelines.
Marius Delport, one of those being rested this weekend, said it was vital that the players get a break ahead of the play-offs.
And they can enjoy watching teams like Western Province, the Lions and Cheetahs putting their bodies on the line in a weekend of ‘must-win’ matches that will further drain their already stretched energy reserves.
WP and the Lions go head-to-head in Cape Town, while the Cheetahs host the Boland cavaliers as they chase the two remaining spots in the play-offs.
But for the Bulls it’s an opportunity to recharge and return next week refreshed.
“The [Bulls] team that will play in the semis had a decent run of games together,” Delport told rugby365.com in an exclusive interview.
“We know what to expect from each other and they decided to give us a break this week. No doubt we will be ready by next week,” he said, adding they have already benefited from the odd bye in mid-season.
Their training regime this week consisted mainly of some fitness sessions, with an already reduced work-rate starting the process of “refreshing” the players.
However, it is the four-day break over the weekend the will help most.
“The other teams will have some very tough games this weekend. It is very much like an extra play-off match for some of the teams, like the Lions and Western Province,” Delport said.
“Where they are having a tough week, we are having a nice relaxing weekend … and in the long run it will help us.
“Next week it is back to normal and we are all looking forward to start preparing for the semis.
“However, the best thing about this weekend is that we can sit back, have a braai [barbecue] and watch them tackle the living daylights out of each other.
“We now have an extra week to recover, where they only have next week, and we’ll return next week refreshed.”
Delport, a former South African Under-19 and Under-21 star who came through the Blue Bull ranks, said he is enjoying his time as World Cup-winning Springbok Wynand Olivier’s midfield partner.
Despite having spent some time on the wing and fullback in previous years, and extended run at outside centre has seen his game take a sharp upward curve.
“It doesn’t matter where I play,” he said about the question of wing or centre, “…as long as I get game time.”
And with the experienced Olivier on his inside, he is “enjoying” the extra opportunities to express himself.
“He [Olivier] has played at international level and knows what it is all about and that makes life a lot easier for me,” Delport told rugby365.com.
“Also, players like Bryan [Habana] and Akona [Ndungane], guys who have played at the highest level, make it much easier to settle in.”
But it is the influence of a rejuvenated Olivier that is most beneficial.
“Wynand [Olivier] is a very good player, and he certainly creates a lot of opportunities for me at outside centre, especially with his running lines.
“He is also playing great rugby this year. No doubt he is on song this year,” Delport added.Tweet