Chiefs forwards coach Craig Stevenson expects the Bulls to use their gargantuan forward pack to “grind out” a win when the two teams meet in a Super 14 crunch match in Pretoria on Saturday.
Speaking in a teleconference call from the team’s base in Pretoria on Tuesday, Stevenson said the table-topping Chiefs know they are in for a “huge” game against the third-placed Bulls.
Despite coming back from an arduous five-week tour to Australasia, while the Chiefs have already acclimatised after arriving in South Africa more than a week ago, the New Zealand franchise don’t expect the Bulls to be anything but at their best.
“We know that they are a very, very dangerous team up here in Pretoria,” Stevenson said, adding that the Chiefs know that the Bulls want to get their season back on track with three home games coming in the next few weeks.
After heading the standings through the first six weeks, a few losses on tour saw the Bulls drop to their current place on the ladder.
Rugby 365′s Jan De Koning writes that the Chiefs forwards coach said he expects the Bulls to “lift themselves” now that they are back at home again.
“These guys’ supporters are fanatical and we know we are walking into a huge arena against guys who just want to win,” Stevenson said.
“I know these guys will come out firing and I know what to expect from them,” he said.
He felt there is no secret to the Bulls’ game.
“They have a huge kicking game, they love territory and they’ve got big forwards that will try and grind you down.
“We know what is coming and we just need to make sure that we are ready for that and that we put a few of our tactics on the park to negate that sort of game plan.”
It is among the forwards where Stevenson expects the biggest battle.
“They are a typical South African team – they are big men, they love the line-out, they put a lot of pressure on your line-out and they are big at scrum time.
“It is just the physical part, they’ve got some big loose forwards who like playing with the ball. Their loose forwards are all very good ball carries, but they can carry from No.1 to No.8.
“We know that they are going to have a crack at us there.
“They will kick for territory, get possession and just try and grind us down.
“When you play against South African teams you have to put it on the line against these big men and make sure they don’t get in behind you.”
He again confirmed that All Black scrumhalf Brendon Leonard is a “non-starter” against the Bulls this week, after taking a blow to his collar bone in the 28-10 win over the Cheetahs last week.
He said that they will continue to re-asses the No.9 to see how that injury is progressing and that he will remain with the team.
“At first we thought [he would be] up to four weeks [out], but he is progressing day-by-day.”
With the Chiefs wider training group scrumhalf David Bason already having joined them in Pretoria, Leonard will have at least another week to recover.
It is hoped that Leonard would be fit for next week’s game against the Stormers.
“We will assess him on a day-to-day basis and make a call on him closer to next weekend and if he’s right, then obviously he’ll start.”
Unlike Leonard, injured wing Sitiveni Sivivatu will not be joining up with the team this week, even though he could be cleared for the Stormers game as well.
“He saw the surgeon yesterday [Monday] and we are awaiting the report on that,” Stevenson said, adding: “We’ll assess the shoulder [injury] over the weekend and see if he is available for [the matches against] the Stormers and the Hurricanes.”
He said that they were very lucky to come away from the win over the Cheetahs without any additional major injuries – apart from some burning, lungs and stiff calf muscles, but nothing that will affect selection.Tweet