At the beginning of this season with their backs firmly against the wall and a bottom-of-the-log scrap looming as the consequences of their inept performances, the Bulls managed to bounce back and are now sitting pretty in third place on the overall log and on top of the South African conference.
So it came as no surprise yesterday when Spies warned of the danger that the Reds will pose against the Bulls in their Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow evening.
The Reds have suddenly become the whipping boys of this year’s competition having won just one out of their seven games but it is their hour of reckoning that Spies warns could come as early as tomorrow.
Amongst the Australian outfit are a handful of internationals who on their day can turn chumps into champs and more so when they have been written off.
“If you look at their team, they still have plenty of world-class players that have won the competition and also played Tests for Australia. They will be wanting to get their campaign back on track. The biggest motivation for us is that there’s no need for us to look at them any differently. We are chasing our own standards in terms of what we want to achieve. We know that the Reds are going to be very dangerous this week,” Spies said at yesterday’s team announcement.
As dangerous as the Reds will be, the Bulls will be under pressure to get their campaign back on track after last weekend’s loss to the Lions and to give his team extra grunt Bulls coach Frans Ludeke wasted no time in bringing back Springboks Arno Botha and Flip van der Merwe, pictured, into the team.
Botha will start on the flank in place of Hanro Liebenberg while Van der Merwe will start from the bench and is guaranteed game time in order to get up to speed especially with Victor Matfield out injured.
“Flip has had a good build up in the last three weeks he has been involved at training. He is the type of player that can easily slot in. He’s an experienced guy also, he brings different strengths to the side,” said Ludeke.
“We are fine with the fact that he won’t be 100percent in terms of playing a full 80 minutes. But we are confident that in that last 20 to 40 minutes he can make a huge impact.”
Further changes to the Bulls team sees Ludeke rest hooker Adriaan Strauss according to the agreement between the five Super Rugby franchises and the South African Rugby Union to rest their Springboks which will see Callie Visagie being handed a rare start.
Bulls: Jesse Kriel, Francois Hougaard, JJ Engelbrecht, Burger Odendaal, Bjorn Basson, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Pierre Spies (capt), Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Jacques du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling.
Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Morné Mellett, Marcel van der Merwe, Flip van der Merwe, Hanro Liebenberg, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Jurgen Visser. - The Star
Original source: Bulls not taking struggling Reds lightly