Preview: Blue Bulls v Golden Lions

Date published: September 11 2015

There will be plenty at stake when tournament pace-setters the Golden Lions face the second-placed Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.

The Currie Cup's only form teams, who are also the only sides left in the competition with unbeaten records, are separated by a single point on the table.

The Golden Lions boast a full-house of 25 points from their five matches played while the Blue Bulls have 24 points after the same number of games, after they failed to secure a try-scoring bonus point in last weekend's 24-17 win over the Free State Cheetahs in Pretoria.

Blue Bulls head coach Nollis Marais knows his side must be at their best if they want to beat the table-toppers.

"We have a massive challenge this weekend," he said.

"The Lions have played great rugby for a while now and is not top of the log for nothing.

"We are building nicely as the season progresses and we are starting to find our feet and each other, but we are far from the finished product. It will mean that we will have to be at our very best to stay in this one."

The home side's captain Lappies Labuschagne echoed his coach's sentiments and said they are highly motivated for this encounter.

"We have the intensity of a derby match, but also the knowledge that we are playing the team on form in the competition," he explained.

"These types of matches are the ones that test character and we will have toshow we have what it takes."

Although they've won all their matches with bonus points, the Lions were made to work hard in their previous match – a 37-21 triumph over the Eastern Province Kings.

They might have won by a 14-point margin, but the Kings pushed them all the way before a late Ruan Combrinck try secured victory.

The Lions have been bolstered by the return of their captain Jaco Kriel, who has been sidelined for the past two weeks with a side injury.

Kriel is a player who has proven in the past that he can change the course of a match with a moment of brilliance and will be determined to make an impact for the visitors.

His battle at the breakdown with fellow captain Labuschagne will have a huge bearing on the result. Both are fine foragers who will give their all to get their respective sides on the front-foot.

Prediction: Don't be surprised if this game goes down to the wire. The Bulls, however, will scrape home by two points!

The teams:

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

Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Stephan de Witt, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 MB Lusaseni, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 Jaco van der Walt, 21 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Sampie Mastriet.

Date: Saturday, September 12
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Jaco Kotze
Television match official: Johan Greeff