Bulls

Bulls not expecting any favours

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The trans-Jukskei (river) derby between the Bulls and Lions, which rivals the big north-south battle between the Bulls and Stormers for tradition, will ensure the Bulls can’t expect any favours at Ellis Park on Saturday.

It is a fact that South African teams in general never hold back against their compatriots, but there is always some extra needle in games between teams from Pretoria and Johannesburg.

For that very reason the Bulls, chasing a Super 14 play-off spot, will have to be on top of their game in a Round 12 Superb 14 encounter with the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Bulls prop Rayno Gerber, who loves playing at Ellis Park, has warned that the Lions will pose a huge threat to the Bulls’ semi-final aspirations.

He had his first taste of this trans-Jukskei rivalry when he played for the Blue Bulls at Ellis Park in a Currie Cup match. The Bulls won that game, but were beaten in the return match at Loftus Versfeld.

Gerber said that there will be no holding back by either team on Saturday.

“No doubt the guys want to take each other on,” he told this website.

“We always talk of the Bulls versus Stormers or Blue Bulls versus Western Province as the big derby, but I think the Bulls versus Lions is up there with it – you can see on the field the guys really give it a full go.

“It is also always a close game and it is always a bruising battle. Rest assured there will be a lot of people at Ellis Park on Saturday and it will be a big game.”

Despite a slump in form in the last month, after some impressive early season results, Gerber feels the Lions remain a quality outfit.

“They are not a bad team at all,” he said.

“What they have in their favour is that they have a lot of new guys, guys who are not bogged down with history of the Cats. Now that the Cheetahs and the Lions have split, you can see the improvement in the results of both teams.

“The Lions have played some great rugby this year and have beaten top teams like the Crusaders, so we’re expecting a massive onslaught.”

The Bulls are renowned for their bruising forwards, but Gerber warned that the Lions pack should not be dismissed as a threat.

“They have a very good scrum – with Heinke [van der Merwe], Brian [Mujati], Bertus [Smith], Etthienne [Reynecke] and Willie [Wepener]. Willie and myself have been playing against each other since our varsity days and he is a very strong scrummager.

“Also Leon Boshoff is doing a great job with the pack, especially the scrums.

“Their line-outs and driving mauls are also very good.

“Also, don’t forget a player like Baywatch [Cobus Grobbelaar], who creates a lot of turnovers.

“Allround they have a really good set of forwards,” Gerber said.

He said the biggest challenge for the Bulls pack is to ensure they achieve consistency.

“Our driving mauls came off very well this past weekend [a 49-12 win over the Stormers], but earlier in the season things did not always go according to plan.

“We have worked hard on that aspect of our game, but it helps when a fly-half like Derick can put the ball in the corners with that educated boot of his.

“The important thing is now to do it week after week, not one week on and one week off,” Gerber said.

Gerber, who was a member of the world champion SA Under-21 side that won the International Rugby Board (IRB) tournament at Ellis Park in 2002, said he loves visiting Johannesburg’s world famous rugby ground.

“It is a great field, it is for me one of the most memorable stadiums – from that Under-21 IRB tournament [in 2002]. It is one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world for me and it is always a joy to play there.”

Gerber, who returned to South Africa ahead of the Currie Cup last year after two seasons plying his trade in the tough English Premiership for Leeds, said described his stint abroad as a “great learning curve”.

He started his senior career at the Cheetahs, before the opportunity arose to move abroad.

“The opportunity arose to play Premiership and Heineken Cup rugby in Europe. I was young when I went, but I thought I could learn from the experience.

“I scrummed against many different players, players who played for France and England and it was a golden opportunity to learn, but the plan was always to return to SA.

“It was really nice, I really enjoyed it,” he said of his stint at Leeds – where he played alongside other South Africans like Springbok Andr’ Snyman, Namibian international Kees Lensing, as well as other South Africans like Roland de Marigne, Roland Reid and Pierre Uys.

But he said the best move he could have made for his career wads to join the Bulls.

“The Bulls have really good structures, they look after their players. The entire set-up – the gym facilities, in fact all the facilities, are top class and the coaching staff like Heyneke Meyer and Pote Human makes it a lot easier for the players.

“The Bulls are truly a family, a close-knit unit.”

Another interesting aspect is how many of Gerber’s 2002 SA Under-21 teammates are now plying their trade at the Bulls.

Prop Gurthro Steenkamp, hooker Gary Botha, loose forward Pedrie Wannenburg and scrum-half Fourie du Preez, centre JP Nel are all products of that team.

Add to that players against who he would have players Jean de Villiers (Stormers), Clyde Rathbone (Brumbies) and Ricky Januarie (Lions) and only then you realise what a powerful unit the class of 2002 was.

And with a number of them having come through the ranks at the Bulls, things are looking good for the Pretoria franchise.

“Teams generally start doing well when they have lots of experience and this Bulls team has a lot of the players who have 50 Super Rugby matches or more. That experience helps, it certainly helps when the young guys come in – but a substantial chunk of this team have been together for some time now.”

It means the Bulls are now moving into the kind of territory where the Crusaders have been for some time now – having a core group of established and well-drilled players and slowly introducing the youngsters.

Gerber said the issue of experience is not negotiable at Super 14 level.

“You can’t suddenly start with a bunch of youngsters. Guys like Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha and Gary Bother who have been playing Super Rugby for years.

“We have a core group of veterans and that makes it a lot easier to introduce youngsters systematically to the system.

“It certainly helped me when I came to the Bulls. The guys know what to expect and to play with them is a big bonus,” Gerber added.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital 

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