THE Bulls are hoping to have Springbok centre Wynand Olivier back to add an attacking edge to their midfield in the Super 14 final against the Chiefs at Loftus on Saturday evening.
Olivier, one of the form centres in the Super 14, missed the semi-finals because of a hip injury and again the Bulls are waiting until the last moment to make a call on his fitness.
Coach Frans Ludeke told reporters yesterday that a decision on Olivier will only be made on Friday.
“We’re very positive he will be fit,” said Ludeke, “and by Wednesday we will have a good idea. But we’ll wait until Friday before finalising the team,” he said.
The absence of Olivier severely disrupts the Bulls backline, with Jaco Pretorius having to shift from his natural outside centre position to inside to cover him, and Marius Delport coming in at No. 13.
Ludeke has no other injury concerns and the Bulls have named the same side originally selected for the semi-final.
Captain Victor Matfield dismissed talk of the Bulls being heavy favourites after they beat the Chiefs 33-27 in the round robin phase and because they have not lost to the Chiefs at Loftus since 2001.
“It’s a final and anything can happen in those 80 minutes,” he said.
Both he and Ludeke praised the Chiefs’ dangerous attacking play from broken play.
But Ludeke said the Bulls would not tamper with a winning formula.
“Everyone knows how we play. We believe in the basics and keeping it simple. We believe in building pressure, getting into the right areas and then scoring points.”
He said the Bulls have the players to attack from broken play and exploit space.
“But on Saturday it will be tight, Test match atmosphere, really, so you have to be very accurate with the opportunities you have.”
Meanwhile, Chiefs head coach Ian Foster is confident his team will bounce back from reecnt injuries to key players and win the final.
The Chiefs travelled without All Blacks wing Sitiveni Sivivatu (dislocated shoulder), who played a key role in their 14-10 semi-final win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton. The powerful wing is facing surgery to his shoulder and this would then sideline him for the rest of the year.
“He played a very important part in getting us into the final, but we will keep trucking on and make the most of the opportunity that he’s helped us create,” Foster said.
The Chiefs lost prop Ben May and scrumhalf Brendon Leonard before the semi-final, but centre Richard Kahui is back in the 24-man travelling party and Sione Lauaki has reportedly recovered from a heavy blow to the head during the Hurricanes game.
Foster told reporters that the long haul to Pretoria is a problem.
“It’s not easy and the focus for the week is going to be on recovery and getting good sleep patterns as soon as we can.”
“We’re travelling to a final, so there’s going to be a great emotional edge to the week and at this stage of the season we don’t have to jam that much training in. It’s going to be more about the sleeping and getting the mental preparation right.”
Bulls team: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Jaco Pretorius/Marius Delport, 12 Wynand Olivier/Jaco Pretorius, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Derick Kuün, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Marius Delport/Gerhard van den Heever.