Bulls missing Boks stars but ready to tackle Bristol in Champions Cup

Bulls missing Boks stars but ready to tackle Bristol in Champions Cup

The Bulls are preparing to tackle Bristol Bears in a Champions Cup clash at Ashton Gate on Saturday without their Springbok stars but still believe they have what it takes to win.

Jake White's side have set their eyes on a rare away victory which would put them in good standings in the pool ahead of their final group stage clash back on home soil.

The South Africans lie in third place in Pool 1 after two games, level on points with a superior points difference to Saracens and this weekend's hosts, Bristol Bears. A victory in the southwest of England would give them a good chance of advancing into the next round, a goal that White says the team is pursuing without any hesitation.

"We have come here to win, it is that simple," White said.

"The reality is, this is a make or break fixture for both teams because the reality is whoever wins this match is almost, almost guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

"It is a tough competition. Winning one and losing one has left us in the middle of the pool and this fixture will give us clarity on where we potentially will finish. This is a massive game for us because it could influence the next four to five weeks in terms of our planning and travel across both the Champions Cup and the United Rugby Championship."

On what to expect from Bristol, White said: "Over the last few weeks they have mauled a lot and they have played well. They would have gotten a lot out of their victory over the Sail Sharks, so we expect them to come at us fired up.

"They are definitely not an 8th on the log team but maybe they just started the season badly and now they are playing catch up; however, they are a good side playing in a really competitive league."

On the decision to rest four of their Springbok stars - Canan Moodie, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Marco van Staden and Willie le Roux, White said this was not a sign they were prioritising one competition over the other.

"It is a catch-22 because when do you rest and when don't you rest them? The reality is they need to be given an eight-week break. This doesn't mean we prioritise the one competition over the other because we have big ambitions for both," he added.

"Yes, there was an idea to rest the one and keep the other however I decided on giving the mass a rest because they play better as a combination, so I'd rather have them together than one and not the other.

"So, I looked at the players we have and thought this will not influence our planning that much but rather give them off now which will be an extra week over Christmas with their families but nothing untoward the competitions."

Bulls: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Sebastian de Klerk, 13 David Kriel, 12 Harold Voster, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Mpilo Gumede,, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Reinhardt Ludwig, 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.

Replacements: 16 Simphiwe Matanzima, 17 Tiaan Lange, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Ruan Nortjé, 20 Deon Slabbert, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Henry Immelman.

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