Set pieces will determine outcome for Bulls: Potgieter

Dewald Potgieter giving the thumbs-up sign
Dewald Potgieter giving the thumbs-up sign

Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter says his side will be looking for set-piece domination against the Brumbies in their Super Rugby semi-final at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria on Saturday.

“The Brumbies play total rugby which is similar to the type of rugby we play and, given that it is a semi-final, the greatest aspect of play would be the set pieces,” Potgieter said.

“The team that dominates the set pieces will control possession and will play in the right areas for most of the match.”

Despite the Bulls’ home-ground advantage, there is little to choose between the two sides with the match likely to go down to the wire.

The stadium has done justice to its reputation as ‘Fort Loftus’, with the Bulls not losing a match there, so far, this year.

The three-time Super Rugby champions have also never lost a semi-final at their base and will be looking to win their fourth semi-final.

The Brumbies have lost their last three matches against the Bulls at Loftus with their last victory in the capital dating back to 2006.

Potgieter said the Bulls needed to be accurate at the breakdown area against the two-time champion Brumbies.

“They are a world class team in terms of the breakdowns as they do not only have one or two players committing to this area, but every single player attacks the breakdowns,” he said.

“It is important for us to secure the ball and enable guys like Hougie (Francois Hougaard) and Jano Vermaak to control the ball behind the breakdown and set pieces.”

While the Bulls have introduced a few rookies this season, the side has a sufficient number of seasoned campaigners with the experience of playing knockout matches.

Potgieter said the core of senior players within the team brought some calm, ahead of the match, which made his task as captain slightly easier.

“The fact that it is a semi-final makes my job easier and the magnitude of the occasion is not lost on the players,” he said.

“It is almost more important to remain calm in everything you say, and through the way you execute everything, because the youngsters look up to you.

“We are fortunate to have senior players who know you have to bring the energy when it matters. It doesn’t help to make a big deal out of it at the beginning of the week.”

The Brumbies, coached by former Springbok coach Jake White, have not played in a Super Rugby final in nine years and the Australians would be determined to ensure a final berth.

White is a wily tactician and would have done all his homework ahead of the match, and the Bulls will have to be spot-on in the execution of their game plan.

Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn is pivotal in that plan and his performance on Saturday could — as often is the case — be a deciding factor.

“When one talks about the territory game, Morne is the guy you want at number 10 to lead the charge,” Potgieter said.

“He knows exactly what the team’s strengths are and how to bring them out in a match.

“It is important for your number nine and 10 to make the decisions and Morne is one of the best in the world in that department.”

The teams:

Bulls team: Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter (captain), Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Frik Kirsten, Morne Mellett, Paul Willemse, Jono Ross, Jano Vermaak, Jürgen Visser.

Brumbies team: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Clyde Rathbone, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (captain), George Smith, Peter Kimlin, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Replacements: Siliva Siliva, Ruan Smith, Fotu Auelua, Colby Faingaa, Ian Prior, Andrew Smith, Joseph Tomane. – Sapa