Preview: Blue Bulls v FS Cheetahs

Date published: September 3 2015

The Blue Bulls will look to continue their fine start to the season when they host the Free State Cheetahs in Pretoria on Friday.

The hosts are in red hot form at the moment after winning all four of their previous matches with try-scoring bonus points and they are currently at the top of the standings with the Golden Lions, who also have a full house of points.

The Bulls kicked off their campaign in style with a 57-19 bonus-point win over the Cheetahs in their season opener in Bloemfontein, and followed that up with convincing wins over Griquas – in Pretoria and Kimberley – and Western Province.

The Bulls have been boosted by the return to their matchday squad of Marcel van der Merwe (prop) and Jan Serfontein (centre) who both missed out on selection to the Springbok squad for the upcoming World Cup in England.

Blue Bulls captain Lappies Labuschagne is delighted to have the Springboks back in the team.

"Both Marcel and Jan were very unlucky to miss out on a World Cup spot, so we are very pleased that they are back to play for us," he said.

"They will be keen to show why they should have been in the squad and that motivation will spur us on. 

"The Cheetahs are dangerous and have their tails up, so we will need to be sharp on Friday.”

Despite that huge defeat in Bloemfontein in the first round, the Cheetahs will be no pushovers this time round. 

Although they also lost their second match of the campaign to Western Province in Cape Town, they bounced back in style with back-to-back victories over Griquas in Kimberley and against WP in Bloemfontein last weekend.

Keep an eye on full-back Clayton Blommetjies and wings Sergeal Petersen and Raymond Rhule. All three are explosive runners, especially from broken play.

Up front, number eight Niell Jordaan has impressed as a ball carrier while captain Francois Uys is one of the team's unsung heroes who does plenty of work at the coalface of the Cheetahs' forward effort.

Prediction: Although this match should be closer than the previous encounter between these sides, the Bulls will still be victorious. Bulls to win by 10 points!

The teams:

Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Jan Serfontein.

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Elandre Huggett, 1 BG Uys.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21, Ruan van Rensburg, 22 Sias Ebersohn.

Date: Friday, September 4
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Francois Pretorius, Vusi Msibi
Television match official: Willie Vos