Bulls tight-head prop Werner Kruger has warned the Waratahs that his team’s rolling maul is primed to be at its damaging best for Saturday’s game in Sydney.
Kruger, 29, who last week earned his 100th Super Rugby cap, said the Bulls pack’s signature tactic had fallen short in New Zealand during the past two weeks, where they lost 25-20 to the Hurricanes and 27-20 to the Highlanders.
But hard-working Kruger – who last year was one of three Bulls to play in all of their 17 Super matches for a total of 922 minutes – said the pack was ready to make up for it against the Waratahs.
“We will definitely try and get it going,” said Kruger, with a glint of excitement. “We have used it as a weapon for a long time, the rolling maul. It’s a great attacking weapon when we are in the right area of the field.
“We didn’t get it going [well] last weekend – or the last two weekends. We are working hard [on it].”
While the rolling maul can lead to tries, Kruger said its also served to gradually weaken an opposition.
“When you get a rolling maul going it takes a lot more energy for an opposition team to stop [it], than for you to keep it going,” he said. “Basically what you are trying to do is wear down the opposition for later on.”
Kruger said the Bulls would also draw on their lineout prowess, bolstered with Springbok star Victor Matfield’s playing return.
“It’s one area of the game where we try to dominate opposition and are pretty effective in disrupting their lineout ball and stopping them getting clean ball,” Kruger said. “That helps in keeping their backs out of the game as well.”
As for the Waratahs scrum, Kruger, who will come up against loose-head Benn Robinson, said: “We have been doing a lot of video on their scrums. It’s been a fierce contest every year and every game I have played against him. I don’t expect this one to be any different.”
But the Bulls, who have won all eight games against the Waratahs since 2006, expect a tougher contest from NSW than in recent years.
“They are definitely more physical,” Kruger said, citing former Bull Jacques Potgieter as an influence.
“Potgieter adds more bulk and [with] second-rower [Will Skelton] they are a lot heavier. It’s going to be a big battle up front. They also bring a whole different game plan now with [Israel] Folau at the back – he is a special player.
“They are a much improved and much different side than what they were in the last couple of seasons.”
The Bulls forwards realise they must secure clean ball for their backs, especially for centres J.J Engelbrecht and Jan Serfontein, to make best of their opportunities.
“As soon as we can get Engelbrecht and Serfontein better ball and playing on the front foot, it will benefit the whole team,” Kruger said.
The Bulls named an unchanged starting side after lock and captain Flip van der Merwe passed a fitness test on his injured arm.