KINGS PARK CLASH
Currie Cup semifinal: Bulls’ eye is on the future
All the Blue Bulls team need to do in Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal against the Sharks at Kings Park is to focus on their own strengths, head coach John Mitchell has said.
Whatever these may be, they have been functioning well in Pretoria as the Bulls squeezed into the semifinals after two big wins against the Free State Cheetahs and the Pumas.
They were on the receiving end of some harsh rugby lessons against the Sharks in both their round-robin matches, though they showed some fight in their 18-5 and 28-20 defeats.
"It’s going to be a race to see who initiates their strengths the better and I guess that’s what the contest will be all about‚" Mitchell said.
"We are two different teams, but we know the Currie Cup is not our destination as we will continue to build for the future. If we choose to go further as a result of a good performance‚ that’s great, but we’re building for the future.
"The Currie Cup would be a by-product of getting our things right, but I won’t be drawn into the outcome, as much as that’s enjoyable, because it can also go the other way.
"We need to continue getting better‚ keep understanding as to why we are getting better and knowing what can make us better," Mitchell said.
The Sharks have been extraordinary for the better part of this season. After their first-game loss to the Free State Cheetahs‚ they went on a 10-match winning streak that was snapped by a desperate Western Province side who were chasing a home semifinal.
Momentum can be overrated and the Sharks might have been due a bad game. Now that they have dispensed with that‚ they could pose a fresh threat with everything to prove after their disastrous second-half against Western Province.
In surrendering a 10-point half-time lead‚ they allowed John Dobson’s side to knock up 28 points in 16 minutes to snatch a rare 31-20 win at Kings Park. So, Mitchell is aware the Sharks may be hurting.
"We’re another step closer now, but we’ve drawn the best team in the competition. They’ve got the home semifinal for a reason, but we need to stick to the processes that we’ve stuck to since Nelspruit‚" Mitchell said.
"The Sharks have probably been in finals mode for the past couple of weeks as a result of knowing where they stand. They’ve got experience and stuff and the Currie Cup is very important to them.
"We’ve worked hard to earn this opportunity the hard way and nothing is going to be different for us," Mitchell said.
• Veteran Sharks loose-forward Keegan Daniel has been there‚ done that and got the T-shirt with the Sharks.
He has experienced his fair share of Currie Cup ups and downs with better sides, but coach Robert du Preez has put together a formidable team.
"There’s only a handful of us who have won trophies for the Sharks and there are a couple of guys who have won trophies at other unions," Daniel said, adding that "we will rely on that mix of experience".