It is scripted for a Hollywood blockbuster – the underdog team against the star-studded favourites. And Hollywood likes nothing more than the ‘minnow’ walking away as victor.
Of course the official Currie Cup script has the Blue Bulls as outright favourites against the Free State Cheetahs when the two sides meet in the semifinal at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Cheetahs flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter much rather prefer the Hollywood version of the drama, except that he doesn’t think it is as far-fetched as some pundits would have us believe.
Speaking to rugby365.com, Potgieter named a catalogue of examples where Currie Cup play-off matches produced huge upsets – several involving the Cheetahs – and he is confident the Bloemfontein-based outfit can add another chapter to the plot on Saturday.
Despite an injury scare, after hurting his hand against the Boland Cavaliers last Saturday, the flyhalf also declared himself “available and ready to play” in the battle of Loftus.
“I certainly don’t want to miss this one, even if I have to do double strapping,” he said, quickly adding: “I owe them [the Bulls] a big one.”
Potgieter joined the Cheetahs this year, after coming through the ranks at the Pretoria-based team and making his Currie Cup debut for the Bulls in 2006 – a year after making his first class debut in the Light Blue jersey in the Vodacom Cup competition.
But he was always behind Springbok Derick Hougaard and current No.10 Morné Steyn in the flyhalf queue in Pretoria, which is why he moved to Bloemfontein … for more game time.
He dismissed last week’s scratchy 50-40 win over the Boland Cavaliers as a yardstick, saying people are making far too much of the ease with which the Cavaliers scored.
“Once we scored our four tries and we knew we had the game in the bag, the guys started to hold back to avoid injuries – which of course didn’t work in my case,” he told rugby365.com.
“There is nothing wrong with our game, we just had to manage it to get through the game and avoid picking up too many injuries.”
Potgieter said the Cheetahs remain “very positive” about their prospects in the semifinal, regardless of the odds favouring the Bills.
“As we all know, in a semifinal anything can happen, anything,” he said.
“Whether you are the outright favourites or the underdogs, on the day anything can happen.
“The perfect example is the 2005 Currie Cup Final. I was at the Bulls at the time and nobody gave the Cheetahs a snowball’s hope in Hades of winning, yet the ball bounced for them and they pulled off the win.
“You can also go back to before that when the Cheetahs beat Western Province in a semifinal in the rain at Newlands, and we can even go to last year’s semifinal between the Sharks and Lions in Durban, when the Lions also upset the apple cart.
“That is the beauty of a semifinal, you have worked hard to get there and as a result you have given yourself a shot at making it to the Final.”
Potgieter also revealed the reason behind his supposed slump in form this year, explaining that he returned from injury too early and aggravated a groin injury – which made it virtually impossible for him to execute one of his primary functions, kicking.
“Since I injured my groin [against the Western Force in February] I really felt I was missing that edge,” he told rugby365.com, adding that the time he spent as a loan player with the Griffons in First Division helped him regain his fitness and confidence.
“When I got back to the Cheetahs I was a lot more at ease,” he said, adding that he is a prime example of how injury can affect your form and confidence.
Potgieter suffered a grade two groin tear in Round Two of the Super 14 and only sat out for two games, before making a comeback.
While the groin initially felt okay, the muscle wasn’t nearly as strong as the other muscles and it steadily got worse again.
“After a while I could not kick and as a flyhalf you are required to do a lot of kicking in a game. That is why I struggled, it was all related to the injury.”
But he feels he now has his edge back and in the last two weeks proved to be a valuable asset to the Cheetahs in the No.10 jersey – especially in the absence of injured Springbok flyhalf Chris Rossouw.
And on Saturday he gets a chance to help the Cheetahs produce another Cinderella story and that is why he is so determined to play, despite the initial fears over his hand injury.
By Jan de Koning of Rugby 365Tweet