The Bulls are preparing for a game of Test-match intensity when they face the Sharks in their all-South African Super 14 derby in Pretoria on Saturday.
Rugby 365′s Jan De Koning writes that having raced back to the top of the table in emphatic fashion, a 51-11 drubbing of near neighbours the Lions, the defending champions know they face a far sterner test this week, and the weeks to come.
With three Springboks back from injury and available for selection, and only outside centre Jaco Pretorius a doubtful starter, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke admitted his squad is indeed in a “very healthy” situation.
Pretorius, who suffered a foot injury in the victory over the Lions, is awaiting the results of scans.
“We’ll know [the result] by Wednesday,” Ludeke told rugby365.com, when discussing his team’s encounter with the Sharks.
The Bulls coach also confirmed earlier reports that veteran Bok lock Bakkies Botha, who has been training with the team since last week, will be available and considered for selection this week.
Two other Boks, wing Akona Ndungane and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, who played 80 minutes of Vodacom Cup rugby at the weekend, will also come into consideration.
However, despite the positive news on the injury front, Ludeke was cautiously optimistic, ahead of what will be another intense and brutal domestic derby.
“The guys are looking forward to these kind of games,” he told rugby365.com, adding: “As always, it will be really tough and demanding.
“It is indeed another very big derby and we are gearing up for a tough battle, a game of Test-match intensity.”
Ludeke felt that the Sharks had shown, after a slow start, that they are a far better than the team which lost their first five matches.
“Like us, they are a very balanced team,” the coach said, adding: “They have a set of forwards that do the basics very well and backs who have the ability to create scoring opportunities from broken play.
“That is why I say it will be like a Test atmosphere.
“That is exactly what Test rugby is all about, neither team gives the other any space and time.
“This game will be all about using your opportunities, about discipline and limiting mistakes … these are the big games.”
However, with the Bulls having returned to the form that saw them collect three 50-pointers and 48 points in their first four games.
It is their ability to shut out the opposition in the second half, even under intense pressure, that makes them so dangerous.
While the Lions, like so many teams earlier this season, held them close in the first half and trailed only 8-12 at the break, it was the final quarter in which they showed their true class – scoring five of their six tries.
“In that second half at the weekend we were very clinical and accurate,” Ludeke said, adding: “The guys showed the necessary urgency to ensure that every opportunity we get we turn into points.”
While Ludeke was “pleased” with the team’s effort, he said it is now important that they build on that – with the Sharks, Crusaders and Stormers looming in the final run-in to the play-offs.
“The more the pressure the more important it becomes to turn every opportunity into points.
“It [the Lions] was a good game to have after that last game on tour against the Reds, to not just get our campaign back on tract, but also create momentum and build confidence within the team.”Tweet