Preview: Blue Bulls v WP

Date published: August 21 2015

Expect fireworks when the Blue Bulls host the champions, Western Province, in their Currie Cup clash in Pretoria on Saturday.

In the main match of the weekend, both teams come off back-to-back victories. With both sides sporting new coaching staff and young playing personnel, all signs point to another thrilling encounter between South Africa’s greatest provincial rivals.

The Blue Bulls are currently sitting on top of the standings thanks to a greater points difference over the Golden Lions. The Pretoria side have scored two bonus-point wins so far and their winning margin has enabled them to climb to the top spot above the Golden Lions and WP (nine points).

The home side will be determined to halt a slide of four consecutive losses against the men from the Cape. In fact, the thrilling 24-24 draw in Cape Town on 10 August 2013 was preceded by their last triumph over WP, which was a 26-13 victory in Pretoria on 5 October 2012.

Overall and counting back to 1996 though, the Blue Bulls have a marginal lead over Province with 18 wins, 16 losses and 2 draws from the 36 matches between the provincial heavyweights.

The Blue Bulls are determined to build on their superb start to the 2015 season by beating the champions, with captain Lappies Labuschagne confirming that hunger.

"We have now played together and the cobwebs are gone," he said.

"We can now focus on our execution, precision and desire to win the Currie Cup and to give our supporters something to be proud of. This starts this weekend against WP."

WP suffered a setback when Springbok centre Juan de Jongh was ruled out for the season through an injury sustained in last weekend's hard-fought 9-3 victory over the Free State Cheetahs.

Fellow Bok Nizaam Carr has been entrusted with the captaincy of the Cape Town-based side who have plenty of exciting players in their ranks. Keep an eye on Johnny Kotze, who fills in for De Jongh in the number 13 jersey and young flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who shone in WP's two previous matches.

WP coach John Dobson is expecting a hard-fought North-South derby in the ‘Bullring’.

“This won’t be a typical North-South derby in that the Bulls are evolving as a team under their new coaching staff,” he said.

“We’re certainly looking forward to the challenge of playing in Pretoria – a full Loftus Versfeld in a North-South derby is one of the most beautiful sights in South African rugby, plus a dry, fast pitch will lead to a more open game… unlike last week’s tough one in the wet.”

Prediction: The champions face their toughest test of the season against a highly-motivated Bulls side. Difficult to call but we're going with the Blue Bulls by five 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 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Dean Greyling. 
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Dan Kriel.

Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr (c), 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18. Chris van Zyl, 19 Chris Cloete, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Huw Jones.

Date: Saturday, August 22 
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Ricus van der Hoven
TMO: Willie Vos