After claiming five successive Super Rugby wins, the Cheetahs face a stern test against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
After claiming five successive wins, for the first time in their history, the Cheetahs face a stern test against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Bulls return to action after last weekend's bye but are in the middle of a slump after suffering three successive away defeats – against the Crusaders, Reds and Brumbies – on their recent tour to Australasia.
From those results, the Bulls were only outplayed by the Crusaders, in their second match, after they got their tour off to a superb start with their first ever win over the Blues in Auckland.
Defeats to the Reds and Brumbies were both narrow, with their loss against the latter only sealed after the hosts slotted a controversial penalty in injury time.
The Bulls, however, head into this clash knowing that they hold a huge psychological edge over the men from Bloemfontein.
The three-time champions are one of only two teams that the Cheetahs have failed to beat since they joined the competition in 2006 (the other team is the Chiefs, who have drawn twice with the Cheetahs – in 2007 in Bloemfontein and 2010 in Hamilton).
The Bulls lead the head-to-head stakes between these sides 9-0. The closest the Cheetahs came to upsetting the men from Pretoria was in 2011 in Bloem, when they lost 23-25. Last year, the Bulls won both derbies easily (51-19 at the Free State Stadium and 40-24 at Loftus Versfeld) and all bets would understandably be on another victory for the hosts.
The in-form Cheetahs will not pay attention to those statistics though and coach Naka DrotskÃ© and his team are looking forward to the trip to Pretoria, but are still expecting a tough encounter at Loftus.
“Like we were against the Stormers, we'll still be the underdogs against the Bulls,” DrotskÃ© said.
“We have a bunch of young players who have surprised everyone in Super Rugby, especially with regards to fitness.
“And that is one thing you need against the Bulls. But at Loftus against the Bulls I don't think the visitors are ever the favourites.
“We couldn't beat the Stormers since 2007 and we haven't beaten the Bulls at Loftus in Super Rugby. But well keep on working hard.”
In their five successive wins – over the Highlanders, Waratahs, Western Force, Rebels and Stormers – the Cheetahs showed that they have the ability to score tries from all areas.
In the midfield, Robert Ebersohn has impressed since shifting from outside to inside centre while wings Raymond Rhule and Willie le Roux are two of the most exciting attacking players in the tournament.
Prediction: Even though the Cheetahs are on a high and the Bulls are in the midst of a slump, the men from Pretoria are in front of their fanatical home crowd. That should give them a lift and end the Cheetahs' winning run. Bulls by seven points!
Bulls: 15 JÃ¼rgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 MornÃ© Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 JuandrÃ© Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 MornÃ© Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Paul Willemse, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Louis FouchÃ¨, 23 Ulrich Beyers.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johan Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich BrÃ¼ssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk De Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Rynhard Landman, 19 Frans Viljoen, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Date: Saturday, April 13
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Jason Jaftha (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)