Bulls captain Stegmann out to impress
New Bulls captain Deon Stegmann would have been a good addition to the Sharks squad that will face the Crusaders in Saturday's semi-final in Christchurch.
The Bulls flanker has, over many seasons, held his own against world class tearaways like Crusaders captain Richie McCaw and, in the process, built a reputation as being one of the best breakdown specialists in the game.
However, he had little to contribute to his team's cause this year due injury.
Widely considered the most important missing link in the Pretoria-based side's Super Rugby campaign, Stegmann will only return to action when the Currie Cup kicks off in August.
And, in a strange occurrence for the number six who has become one of the most experienced players in the Bulls set-up, he admitted to SARugby.com that he is as excited as some of the younger men in the team for the Currie Cup to start.
"I haven't played much this year so I guess I might be a tad more excited to get going than some of the other guys," he said at this week's Currie Cup launch.
Stegmann suffered a groin strain during his team's first match of their Australasian tour and his absence, and that of Dewald Potgieter, meant that the three-time champions weren't nearly as effective in securing vital turnover possession.
Also, Stegmann's exploits in slowing down opposition ball resulted in increased pressure on the Bulls defence, but all that is likely to change when the domestic showpiece gets underway.
For the openside specialist, the competition cannot start any sooner.
"The reason we play this game is because we love it, so to be sidelined for so long is very frustrating," he added.
"To be able to get back to doing what I love is something I'm really looking forward to.
"I really think the Currie Cup is the pedestal for South African competitions and everyone want's to be part of it."
Although he admitted that he will only be able to really gauge his fitness levels when the Bulls take on the Lions at Ellis Park on August 9, he highlighted that he has been putting in the hard yards at training.
From a team perspective, the 28-year-old knows that he and his team-mates need to make amends for their worst Super Rugby showing since 2008 and insisted that they struck the right balance to go all the way.
"Everyone at the Bulls is eager to give their best in the Currie Cup, the oldest competition in the world, and the youngsters understand that it is a great privilege to play in the competition," explained Stegmann.
"That makes it easier for the senior guys as direction is the only thing we really need to give them.
"We have a good blend of youth and experience in our squad and most of the young guys have played in the Currie Cup so that experience should serve them well this year."
By Michael Mentz