CAPE TOWN – The time for payback has arrived. At 4.30pm today, the Bulls are going to run onto the Loftus Versfeld pitch with a score to settle against the Cheetahs, and you will see it in their actions.
The last time these two teams met, on October 16 in Bloemfontein, it was the Free Staters who surprisingly gave their more illustrious opponents a bloody nose.
The likes of Jasper Wiese, Junior Pokomela, Andisa Ntsila and Carl Wegner laid into the Bulls with relish, and not even the return of captain Duane Vermeulen could ignite a spark in the Pretoria outfit.
The Cheetahs knocked the Bulls around physically, and sped into a 13-3 lead that was always going to be difficult to overhaul. Jake White, though, often points to the fact that his side nearly did so, and would have drawn the game if Chris Smith had slotted a late conversion.
So, there is some unfinished business for the Bulls when it comes to the Cheetahs, and that is part of the reason why Vermeulen’s expected break from the game is being delayed until Christmas.
This time the hosts will look to climb into the Cheetahs pack, which has been shorn of five of the starting forwards from the previous win – Wiese, Pokomela, Walt Steenkamp, Luan de Bruin and Charles Marais – due to injuries or having signed with other teams.
In fact, Steenkamp will be wearing the blue No 5 jersey today, and he will be partnered by the man who was on the Cheetahs bench the last time, Sintu Manjezi.
“When they hear the line-out calls, they will get a double-whammy because they know them both! Hopefully we will get a lot of return there,” smiled White this week about his locks.
“It is a different (Cheetahs) team and to be fair, they have lost a couple of tighthead props. If it’s going to rain, I would think they would be a little vulnerable in their forwards. And they are going to sit four-five hours on a bus, like we did when we went there. It’s not ideal as there are no flights and things into Bloem.
“But they are Currie Cup champions, are very well coached, and play with tempo and try to move you around. They have such similar players that they can do the same game plan, and I expect them to have a full go. They have beaten us here, let’s not forget, and they are the only team that beat us this season.”
It is forecasted to rain in Pretoria this afternoon, either during the first half or by half-time, with even a thunderstorm on the cards that could again cause the match to be abandoned.
So, White would want his players to build up their lead and be ahead at the break, as the Bulls would then be awarded the victory and log points.
A smart move would be for flyhalf Morné Steyn to slot as many penalties and drop goals in the opening 40 minutes as possible. And let’s not forget the thrilling attacking threat of Kurt-Lee Arendse from full-back.
Is there any chance of the Currie Cup champions withstanding the onslaught? On paper, no. But we know that Free State teams never give up, and they did win 43-27 at Loftus last year …
Teams For Loftus Versfeld
Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse 14 David Kriel 13 Stedman Gans 12 Cornal Hendricks 11 Marco Jansen van Vuren 10 Morné Steyn 9 Embrose Papier 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 7 Arno Botha 6 Marco van Staden 5 Walt Steenkamp 4 Sintu Manjezi 3 Marcel van der Merwe 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Bench: 16 Corniel Els 17 Jan-Hendrik Wessels 18 Trevor Nyakane 19 Ruan Nortje 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Ivan van Zyl 22 Chris Smith 23 Marnus Potgieter.
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies 14 Rhyno Smith 13 Howard Mnisi 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman 10 Tian Schoeman 9 Tian Meyer 8 Jeandré Rudolph 7 Victor Sekekete 6 Andisa Ntsila 5 Carl Wegner (captain) 4 Ian Groenewald 3 Khutha Mchunu 2 Reinach Venter 1 Boan Venter.
Bench: 16 Jacques du Toit 17 Cameron Dawson 18 Erich de Jager 19 Chris Massyn 20 George Cronjé 21 Ruben de Haas 22 Reinhardt Fortuin 23 William Small-Smith.
Referee: Jaco Peyper. Kick-off: 4.30pm.