Potgieter must 'embrace' the moment
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke feels his team has a "better balance" heading into their second meeting with the Sharks this season.
The Bulls were well below their expected standards when they went down to Durban in Week One and the result was a drubbing at the hands of the Sharks.
However, a number of personnel changes – the most recent the inclusion of Japan-based Springbok Dewald Potgieter at No.8 this week – has given the Bulls a very different look for the return fixture at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The most significant backline change will see Jacques-Louis Potgieter start at flyhalf, after Louis Fouché was at No.10 in Durban. The other is Sampie Mastriet on the right wing for Akona Ndungane, who is on compassionate leave after the death of his father.
Up front there are also some key changes – Potgieter at No.8, after Pierre Spies played in Durban before injury ruled him out for the rest of the season, and Victor Matfield at No.5 lock, with Flip van der Merwe moving to his preferred position at the front of the line-out.
Ludeke, speaking to this website ahead of Saturday's Loftus showdown, said the addition of Potgieter brings a different dynamic to the team.
"When Arno [Botha] and Pierre [Spies] were injured, we immediately contacted him," he said, when asked about the selection of Potgieter.
The Bok loose forward did not hesitate, but a few administrative hiccups delayed his return – with injury insurance at the heart of the issues.
"He brings a lot to the team, an experienced player that has a huge workrate- both on attack and defence," the coach said, adding that experience will be vital in a game like this.
"It is a local derby between two very good teams that are in good form.
"You need players that can embrace the moment. You need players like that, who are up for the occasion."
Ludeke admitted that seasoned players like Potgieter and Matfield will have important roles to play if the Bulls are to reverse their last result against the Sharks – which was a 16-31 loss.
"We feel that our combinations, since that first game [in Durban] have improved dramatically.
"The team is more settled and everybody has a better idea of what we want to do.
"We have achieved some good results in the last two matches and want to build on that."
The Bulls know that Saturday will be a different and bigger challenge and they will have to be at their best.
"We had a good break [last week's bye] and made some minor adjustment [to the game plan]," he said, adding that they hope the long-term weather prediction of a dry day is realised.
"We will have to adjust to whatever happens on the day," Ludeke said.
"Our balance is much better when it comes to the decision-makers in the team, among the forwards and backs and those [changes made] are players who we feel can adjust and make good calls that will benefit the team."
By Jan de Koning