Vi­tal clash for Mitchell

Win­ning away is cru­cial for the Bulls to re­main in the hunt for the Cur­rie Cup

Pretoria News - - SPORT -

NOT PLAY­ING: Vernon Phi­lan­der will not have a chance to prove his fit­ness for the Proteas be­fore they face Bangladesh in the first Test at the end of the month. He will miss the first round of Sun­foil Se­ries matches next week.

VATA NGOBENI

JUDG­ING by the in­dif­fer­ent Cur­rie Cup sea­son the Blue Bulls are hav­ing, it comes as no sur­prise that the next three weeks will be the most im­por­tant in keep­ing the team’s ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions alive.

As de­ceiv­ing as their lowly sixth po­si­tion on the log may sug­gest, the Bulls could eas­ily make a sig­nif­i­cant stride in the stand­ings and march ever so closer to those semi-fi­nal berths if they man­age to get vic­to­ries over the Golden Li­ons, Sharks and Western Prov­ince, re­spec­tively.

It will be in their two im­me­di­ate games away from home start­ing with the en­counter against the Li­ons at Ellis Park to­mor­row and fol­lowed by a trip to Dur­ban to face the Sharks that coach John Mitchell will be look­ing for his side to fire on all cylin­ders.

Hav­ing al­ready lost two matches at home to the Sharks and Free State Chee­tahs, the Bulls will be tar­get­ing the games away from home as an op­por­tu­nity to catch up on the dropped points, es­pe­cially from the first round of the com­pe­ti­tion.

“We’ve got to pick up away points and we are in a big week of three. We’ve got some big games com­ing up. I wouldn’t put it down as the most im­por­tant game of my ca­reer, every game is im­por­tant,” Mitchell said at yes­ter­day’s team an­nounce­ment at Lof­tus Vers­feld.

And the Bulls’ abil­ity to win away from home was given a timely boost with the re­turn of cen­tre Burger Oden­daal to the start­ing line-up and he will also take over the reins of cap­taincy af­ter re­cov­er­ing from in­jury.

Mitchell has also wasted no time in bring­ing back the fit again War­rick Ge­lant who starts at full­back ahead of hat­trick hero Manie Lib­bok who drops to the bench while scrumhalf An­dre Warner comes in for Ivan van Zyl in the third change in the Bulls back­line.

For­mer Li­ons loose for­ward Jano Venter has been handed his first start since cross­ing the Jukskei River a month ago and will be part of a for­mi­da­ble loose trio com­bi­na­tion along with Nic de Jager and Jannes Kirsten.

The Bulls will also be sport­ing a new fron­trow with Matthys Bas­son re­plac­ing Dayan van der Westhuizen, who drops to the bench, while Pierre Schoe­man re­turns from be­ing rested to re­place the in­jured Lizo Gqoboka.

Oden­daal echoed Mitchell’s words of the im­por­tance of beat­ing an in-form Li­ons side for them to re­main rel­e­vant in the com­pe­ti­tion.

“I think it is go­ing to be a great chal­lenge this week­end and we want to test our­selves against the best play­ers. I think the Li­ons have a very good team and it will be a huge chal­lenge for us to go for­ward in the Cur­rie Cup,” Oden­daal said.

PIC­TURE: BACKPAGEPIX

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