Preview: Pumas v Blue Bulls

Date published: October 2 2014

The stakes will be high when the Pumas take on the Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup clash in Nelspruit on Friday.

The stakes will be high when the Pumas take on the Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup clash in Nelspruit on Friday.

The tournament has reached its penultimate round and these teams are placed fifth and sixth on the table. The Pumas have 19 points from eight matches while the Bulls have 18 points after a similar number of games.

The home side – who were amongst the frontrunners in the standings during the tournament’s earier rounds – recently hit a bad patch with three consecutive defeats, including a 37-23 loss to Western Province in Nelspruit last weekend.

Pumas’ mentor Jimmy Stonehouse nevertheless believes his charges have the ability to beat the Bulls who are fresh from a confidence-boosting 31-22 victory over the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

“We’ve shown that we can compete against any team,” said Stonehouse.

Looking at last week we played catch-up rugby again, which was not necessary, and we could have won that one.

“We just have to be accurate from the start and not allow them to get in front of us.

“If we can manage to do that, win our lineouts and scrums and put the points on the board, we can win this one.”

Pumas’ assistant coach MJ Mentz said they were looking for an 80-minute performance from the players as they have been slow out of the blocks in the last few matches.

“We must hit the ground running and minimise our mistakes, which affected us in the first 10 to 20 minutes of the previous two matches, and they capitalised on it,” explained Mentz.

“In the latter parts of the games, we stepped up the tempo of the game and we scored the points.”

The Pumas’ loss to WP in their previous match was their first home defeat of the season and Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke acknowledged that his side face a daunting task this weekend.

“Going to Nelspruit it is important to look at why teams have struggled there and facets didn’t work for them,” he said.

“You have to be accurate at the breakdowns as they are a direct team… so it will be an important battle.”

Victory is imperative for both sides – as a loss could ruin their play-off chances. However, defeat will be more catastrophic for the Bulls as it could mean they miss out on the semi-finals for the second successive year.

Ludeke said although they were desperate to advance to the semi-finals, they would not look past this weekend’s clash.

“We don’t talk top four, this weekend is the only focus and this is the vital one, all our preparations this week was to be more accurate,” he added.

Bulls captain Deon Stegmann said from the video analysis of the Pumas’ games this season, that it was clear that they would have a tough battle on their hands.

“We did a lot of video work on them, they are a very direct team and physical, so we know it is going to be big battle for us,” he explained.

“We are definitely not expecting an easy battle because they are also in the running for a semi-final spot and they will keep that in the back of their heads.”

Prediction: Although they lost last weekend, the Pumas will bounce back in their backyard this weekend. Pumas to win by six points!

The teams:

Pumas: 15 JW Bell, 14 Ruwellyn Isbell, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Justin van Staden, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corne Steenkamp (c), 5 Giant Mtyanda, 4 Marius Coetzer, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Frankie Herne, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 DeJay Terblanche, 18 Uzair Cassiem, 19 RW Kember, 20 Dylon Frylinck, 21 Coenie van Wyk, 22 Jerome Pretorius.

Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Jacques Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann (c), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Morn