- Toyota Cheetahs will seek to add salt to wounded Bulls who are out to redeem themselves.
Free State Cheetahs are today looking to add more pain to wounded Blue Bulls who suffered an expected loss against Western Province in their opening match this past weekend.
Without question, the former championships will be out to redeem themselves in the tournament after suffering a near exit in the competition last season. After playing a promotion-relegation tie against the SWD Eagles, the Cheetahs have a point to prove.
Unlike in 2018, the Cheetahs will not have to split their squad between the Currie Cup and Pro14, which was a major contributor to their performances last year. Instead, outgoing coach Franco Smith can use the Currie Cup to get the Cheetahs’ key players into top form before Hawies Fourie takes over for the Pro14 in September.
As a further positive, the Cheetahs don’t yet seem to have suffered the mass exodus as they have in previous years, with scrumhalves Sean Venter and Rudy Paige the only key players heading overseas.
It would be a much-improved effort from the Cheetahs, which should have them finish in the top four this year.
However, their first obstacle will be the wounded Bulls. Despite suffering the most from international call-ups and a player exodus to Europe and Japan, Bulls are determined to live up to expectations and deliver the goods.
Heading into a mouth-watering encounter that has lived up to expectations over the years, Bulls coach Pote Human will certainly look for better results against one their strongest competitors in the history of the tournament.
Human concerned that a defeat was hardly the start the Blue Bulls needed to kick off their Currie Cup campaign, but the shortened format means there is no time for wallowing in sorrow.
“We definitely wanted a win in our first match which would give us a mental boost ahead of our match with a competitive Cheetahs. However, we were not at our best on the day,” he said in response to written questions sent via WhatsApp message.
Aware of the tough encounter, Human noted the team still had sufficient time to go through their mistakes and correct them in preparation for the Cheetahs game.
Aware of the task ahead which requires him to re-build, Human said this was not the reason for their poor performance. “We still have quality players capable of filling in those shoes and delivering the goods.”
Human noted the game would be tough as one team seeks to win their first game of the cup and another simply trying to get back on the winning horse.
“They want to win their first game and we are trying to get our campaign back on track so yes, we are looking at a tough encounter that promises entertaining rugby for fans on the day,” noted Human.
The experienced coach further explained the format does not allow for second chances, therefore making it a must-win for his charges who play their second game as they host the former co-champions at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
Despite failure to start off on a winning note, Bulls still have a more than competitive squad, with flyhalf Manie Libbok looking to impress after a mixed Super Rugby campaign. The pressure of replacing Pollard is likely to be on his shoulders next season.
The scrumhalf trio of Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl and André Warner will also all be available, but with only six games in the season, it will be interesting to see how coach Pote Human juggles that selection.