Sports

Bulls eager to avoid World Cup repeat against Sunwolves

Bulls skipper Strauss says his South African side need to play to their strengths to neutralise dangerous Sunwolves

HITO-COM SUNWOLVES v VODACOM BLUE BULLS

(Tomorrow, 6.50pm, Singtel TV Ch 120 
& StarHub TV Ch 217)

Before the Vodacom Blue Bulls take on Japanese outfit Hito-Com Sunwolves at the National Stadium tomorrow, captain Adriaan Strauss will no doubt look back at last September's Rugby World Cup match against Japan.

As the mighty Springboks fell 34-32 to the Brave Blossoms in what was one of the greatest upsets in the sport's history, a nation so proud of its rugby traditions could only watch in utter disbelief.

"It was a bad loss for the country, but we have dealt with that and people in South Africa have been very positive," said Strauss at the InterContinental Singapore yesterday.

The Springboks eventually bounced back to reach the semi-finals of the tournament, and the 30-year-old hooker said backing for the sport in the country has returned.

"They love their Super Rugby. We've got the best supporters in South Africa, so we just want to go out there and make them proud," said Strauss, who scored a try against Japan.

While the Bulls were crowned Super Rugby champions three times in four years from 2007 to 2010, the last five winners have come from Australia and New Zealand.

However, Strauss does not think the performance of South African clubs in the competition is indicative of how the Springboks will fare on the international stage.

"After every four-year World Cup cycle when the older players leave or go overseas, there are opportunities for younger guys to put their hands up. And that's exactly what's happening at the moment," he said.

"History has shown that it's not always a direct correlation (between national team and club performances), but I think it is important for South African teams to do well in Super Rugby."

Strauss is eager to end South Africa's drought in what is widely considered club rugby's toughest tournament, but warned that the Sunwolves will be anything but easy prey.

"It's going to be tough because the Sunwolves are very good at the breakdown and they thrive off quick balls, so we have to neutralise those aspects and play to our own strengths," he added.

Bulls scrum-half Rudy Paige, 26, pointed to the Sunwolves' narrow one-point defeat by fellow South African side the Cheetahs at the National Stadium two weeks ago as proof of their mettle.

"They should've beaten the Cheetahs, they've let that one slip at the end," he said.

"They try and slow your ball down when you're attacking, so if you get sucked into playing a negative type of game, it's obviously going to help them."

The Bulls played out a disappointing 16-16 draw against the Sharks in Pretoria last Friday, and Paige wants to see an improved performance tomorrow.

"It's very important for us to play our type of rugby, and with the conditions, it's going to be humid and the ball is going be slippery," he said.

"That's not an excuse; obviously we're very professional about what we do and we want to make sure we get a good result."

Casting a wary eye on the Japan upset, Paige noted: "We don't want to fall into that same trap; we need to be at our best to beat the Sunwolves in Singapore."

It was a bad loss for the country, but we have dealt with that and people in South Africa have been very positive.

— Vodacom Blue Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss on South Africa’s World Cup defeat by Japan

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