Beat Pu­mas and Mitchell’s men can hope for semis

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI

TO THE vic­tors will go the spoils!

That will be the sce­nario when the Blue Bulls host the Pu­mas in what has been dubbed a Cur­rie Cup quar­ter­fi­nal at Lof­tus Vers­feld tonight.

Typ­i­cal of an “all or noth­ing” af­fair, it will be the team that emerges vic­to­ri­ous that will not only savour the sweet taste of vic­tory but they will also have one foot in the door of the semi-fi­nals and lie in wait that the third placed Free State Chee­tahs de­liver a fa­tal blow to the Golden Lions in their “quar­ter­fi­nal” en­counter at Ellis Park to­mor­row.

While the Pu­mas only stand a math­e­mat­i­cal chance of get­ting into the play­offs via the back door, it will be the Bulls who will be chomp­ing at the bit in the hope they live to play an­other week in the old­est do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion in world rugby.

The Bulls’ re­al­ity is more hope­ful than that of the Pu­mas in that John Mitchell’s men only need guar­an­tee them­selves a bonus point win and pray the rugby gods smile down on them by hand­ing the Chee­tahs vic­tory over a Lions team that are a mere three points ahead of them on the log.

How­ever, a win for the Lions could put the span­ner in the works for the Bulls as they will rely on a cou­ple of per­mu­ta­tions that must see the Chee­tahs be­ing de­nied both bonus points and at worst, get just one to be equal on points with only points dif­fer­ence sep­a­rat­ing the teams.

At the same time, there is also the dark re­al­ity of how the Pu­mas man­aged to man­han­dle the Bulls in their 51-15 win in the first round of the com­pe­ti­tion in Nel­spruit and even though the Bulls have im­proved vastly from that fate­ful day, they will be con­fronted by ghosts from their most re­cent past while try­ing to shine light on a fu­ture that ends with a tro­phy they last won eight years ago.

Mitchell couldn’t be both­ered much about the sense of ex­pec­ta­tion the Lof­tus faith­ful have had in their team since he took over seven weeks ago and is fo­cused on see­ing greater im­prove­ment amongst his play­ers as in­di­vid­u­als and as a team.

It is not to say, though, that the for­mer All Blacks coach cares lit­tle about the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing the play­offs, but what is of para­mount con­cern is putting in place the foun­da­tion that will see a re­turn of the Bulls dom­i­nance in do­mes­tic and Su­per Rugby in the fu­ture.

“It is re­ally im­por­tant not to get caught up in that be­cause ul­ti­mately we know where we are at and what we’ve got to do,” said Mitchell.

“We un­der­stand our lim­i­ta­tions.

“We clearly have got bet­ter and we’ll find out whether it is good enough to be the best in this com­pe­ti­tion. It is ex­cit­ing, we are kind of in a quar­ter­fi­nal, so that is also a dif­fer­ent kind of bench­mark and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how we man­age and han­dle that as well ...

“If I was just to con­cern my­self with the log or a cup or a non-cup then to me it is the wrong way to go about it. We’ve got to de­serve it and we are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion and it re­mains to be seen whether we do de­serve within this com­pe­ti­tion. But the guys are hun­gry and they are mo­ti­vated as well to get bet­ter.”

BLUE BULLS: War­rick Ge­lant, Dun­can Matthews, Burger Oden­daal (cap­tain), JT Jack­son, Johnny Kotze, Mar­nitz Boshoff, Ivan van Zyl, Nic de Jager, Tim Agaba, Marco van Staden, As­ton For­tuin, Ruben van Heer­den, Con­raad van Vu­uren, Edgar Marut­lulle, Pierre Schoe­man. RE­PLACE­MENTS: Jo­han Grobbe­laar, Lizo Gqoboka, Jano Venter, Boom Prinsloo, Piet van Zyl, Tony Jan­tjies, Travis Is­maiel

PU­MAS: Ger­rit Smit, Selom Ga­vor, Jerome Pre­to­rius, Hen­nie Sko­rbin­ski, Ruwellyn Is­bel, Kobus Marais, Ste­fan Un­gerer; Wil­lie En­gel­brecht, Nar­dus van der Walt, Chris Cloete, Hugo Klop­pers, Jan­nie Stander, Pi­eter Scholtz, Marko Janse van Rens­burg, Kh­wezi Mona. RE­PLACE­MENTS: Frankie Herne, De-Jay Terblanche, Cameron Lind­say, Hil­ton Lob­berts, Fran­cois Klein­hans, Reynier van Rooyen, Ger­rie Labuschagne

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