It’s do or die for the Blue Bulls when they come up against the Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Should the Bulls lose, the curtain will be drawn on their Currie Cup campaign.
“It’s been a difficult season, but I believe in this side. A rather despondent-sounding Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar said: “They are a special bunch of guys. They will definitely make the supporters proud in the future. I hope it’s this year.
“I know what we are busy with here makes me very excited about this weekend. I hope we can go out this weekend and play the rugby that I know we can. These players have been in a position where they can fight themselves out of a hole.”
The disappointing 29-18 defeat against Western Province was going to necessitate wholesale changes and Pienaar made eight of them, mostly in the back line.
Springbok winger Bjorn Basson slots in at left wing, replacing Sampie Mastriet. Ulrich Beyers and Tony Jantjies take the places of Waylon Murray and Handré Pollard, who are rested and injured, respectively.
Lock Wilhelm Steenkamp, Bandise Maku and Werner Kruger make their way into the starting line-up, giving the team an experienced look to it.
It will be required, as it was the Lions who gave them a 62-23 shellacking in the corresponding fixture last month.
It is a game that Bulls captain Jono Ross says they have moved on from.
“I know we take it week for week and, yes, we have not forgotten about that defeat. We are planning for that game like we do in any other game. We know we have four games left, starting this weekend, and it will be a final and we must go out there and win.”
This time last year, the Bulls were staring down the barrel of a bottom-of-the-log placement in the Currie Cup.
Pienaar was flanked by Bulls company chief executive Barend van Graan and Super Rugby coach Frans Ludeke in what looked like a show of support for the embattled coach.
There were no head honchos this time but it was a case of déjà vu with the Bulls having one last chance of Currie Cup redemption.
Pienaar will hope that his team shows the same resolve that saw them make the semifinals last year from the bottom of the log.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Morné Mellett.
Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Lohan Jacobs, 21 William Small-Smith, 22 Jurgen Visser
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