The pressure is on both the Blue Bulls and Griquas in what is a must-win game for both teams. Defeat won’t rule either out of the play-offs, but it will leave them with a big mountain to climb in the final round of league action next week.
The close proximity of the two teams on the standings, third and fourth withy just two points separating them, adds spice to what will be a brutal affair.
Victory for the hosts, the Bulls, will guarantee them a place in the play-offs. That should be incentive enough to bring the best out of the men from Pretoria.
Then again, the same applies to the third-placed Griquas.
Which is why this game is so crucial.
“We only need four points for a semifinal spot,” Griquas coach Dawie Theron said.
“So it’s a simple scenario for us to confirm that possibility. We either defeat the Blue Bulls [this week] or the Sharks next weekend. But we don’t want to leave things to the last, which makes this match in Pretoria so important.
“It’s not going to be easy, but anything can happen between the four white lines on the field.”
The Bulls, despite boasting a side that features 10 Springboks, will not fall into the favouritism trap.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said he had no hesitation in naming as many of his available Springboks as possible.
“It’s a very important game for us and we are treating this match as a final,” Ludeke said.
“The Griquas are dangerous and we need to cut out all possible mistakes, especially when you consider that they are a team that can really punish you on turn-over ball.”
It is not just the Bulls’ coaching staff that have been talking up Griquas’ prospects.
Lock Danie Rossouw, one of the 10 Boks in the side, pointed to scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius as the key player in the game.
“They have some great individual players and they also play as a team, which is what makes them so dangerous,” Rossouw said.
“They are good at sticking to their game plan, but the key is the scrumhalf [Pretorius],” the Bok lock said, adding that the their game “revolves” around him.
“He is one of their key players and runs the show.
“There is also their captain, No.8 Jonathan Mokuena. He is also playing very well at the moment.
“In fact they have some good leadership skills and that has lifted them to another level this year.”
Rossouw pointed to the fact that Griquas have experience in key positions – fullback, flyhalf, scrumhalf and No.8 – as one of their main assets.
“However, that scrumhalf is the guy who keeps everybody going.”
rugby365 Prediction: It is crunch time and the Bulls have enough BMT to withstand the pressure that goes with the occasion. Griquas’ lack of experience in crucial games has showed up in the last few weeks and they are again likely to be showed up by a seasoned Boks team. It will be tight for most of the match, but the Bulls will pull clear in the end to win by 15 points.
Blue Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Heini Adams, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Francois Brummer, 21 John Mametsa, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Griquas: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Jaco Bekker, 12 Barry Geel, 11 Trompie Nontshinga, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jonathan Mokuena (captain), 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 5 Jacques Lombaard, 4 Cecil Kemp, 3 Ruaan du Preez, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Albertus Buckle.
Replacements: 16 Dries Kruger, 17 Andre Schlechter, 18 Brendon Snyman, 19 Wesley Wilkens, 20 Donald Stevens, 21 Wilmaure Louw, 22 Gavin Passens.