The Vodacom Bulls won’t be thinking about the Stormers when they take on Western Province in a “must-win” Currie Cup clash at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, according to Jake White.
The Bulls director of rugby has selected a matchday 23 packed with Springboks and Vodacom United Rugby Championship regulars to face WP.
It is the first of two north-south derbies over successive weekends in the Mother City, with a repeat of the inaugural URC final teed up for next week in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Speaking at a media conference on Friday, White played down talk that this week’s clash is an opportunity for the Bulls to gain a psychological advantage before they return to Cape Town next week, though he welcomed the chance for his troops to acclimatise to conditions.
“I don’t quite know how this can be a dress rehearsal when you look at the team they’ve put on the field. There’s missing like 15 of their starters,” he told reporters. “I can’t answer for them and don’t know whether it’s a dress rehearsal for them, by the mere fact they have rested two-thirds, if not all the players who will start next week.
“For us, I can tell you that we’re not in a fortunate position where we can chop and change our team in the Currie Cup campaign based on the start we’ve had. And the real positive is this team has got better and better like they did last year. That’s why I’ve decided to keep this group together.
“For us it’s definitely an opportunity to come to Cape Town [and] next week we’re on exactly the same flight, in exactly the same hotel, hopefully the same weather.
“It’s a good way for us to get two weeks to come to the same venue, the same environment and see how we do. It gives us a great measure of what we need to do when we get another chance next week.
White added: “It’s like playing a practice round before you get into the Masters. It’s the same pressure, it’s going to be a must-win game, Currie Cup-wise, and it’s a stadium we haven’t won in a while. Like a golfer, we’ve got to use this practice round … there’s a lot of things on and off the field we want to get right.
“It’s not often you get to play in the same venue two weeks in a row, so there’s a lot of positives. Like the Boks going to Japan early [in 2019], to feel the environment.”
The two teams meet at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday currently separated by a single point on the Currie Cup log, with the Bulls in fifth place on 17 points after seven games.
The men from Pretoria also go into the match having turned their form around with successive wins against Griquas, and the Sharks and Lions.
White added: “Everyone will know that it doesn’t matter what happens this week [because] there is no guarantee that if you win this week you win next week, for any team.
“We’re probably not in a position at the Bulls to go easy in the Currie Cup. The start we’ve had has meant we’ve got to control what we can control, and that is we’ve got to field teams that win us the next couple of games to give us a chance in the Currie Cup.
“The one thing I am positive about is that this team last year, when they played Wednesday-Saturday, Wednesday-Saturday, they played the same kind of rugby they’re playing now.
“So I hope it will be a copy and paste from last year in terms of style, amount of tries we scored and the amount of cohesion we got, and I’m sure if that happens we’ll make it difficult for any team to beat us.
“And that’s all you want to do, you want to make that at the backend of the competition you’ve got players playing their best rugby.”
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