Preview: Bulls v Chiefs

Date published: March 28 2014

The Bulls will look to end the first phase of their Super Rugby season with a flourish when they host the Chiefs in Pretoria on Saturday.

The Bulls will look to end the first phase of their Super Rugby season with a flourish when they host the Chiefs in Pretoria on Saturday.

Having started the season poorly with losses to both the Sharks and Cheetahs, Frans Ludeke's charges know that another win before their Australasian tour would be paramount to their tournament ambitions.

They will, however, be up against a Chiefs outfit that is hurting from their shock defeat to the Western Force last week.

The defending champions subsequently made eight changes to their run-on team with prop Pauliasie Manu, hooker Rhys Marshall, lock Matt Symons, flanker Tanerau Latimer and the formidable number eight Kane Thompson set to earn starts.

Interestingly enough the Chiefs have decided to select Tim Nanai-Williams on the bench even though he is recovering from a hamstring injury.

Andrew Horrell will be wearing the number 13 jersey in Nanai-Williams' place while the experienced Mils Muliaina reverts back to his preferred full-back position ahead of an inevitable aerial bombardment.

The men from Hamilton will also give teenage wing Anton Lienert-Brown his first start while the Bulls have sent their young gun – Sampie Mastriet – back to the reserve league to accommodate Akona Ndungane.

With Ndungane back at his post the in the only change Ludeke made to his team that last week clinically dismantled the Sharks, the Bulls will be fielding their most experienced side of the season.

And if there is one thing the grey beards in the side will bring to the attention of their team-mates, it would be that the Chiefs have not won at Loftus Versfeld in more than a decade.

The Chiefs' hope of ending that trend has been made even more difficult due to the early kick-off of the match.

Teams travelling to the Highveld usually struggle playing at altitude and with the contest getting underway at 3pm, it becomes even more of a challenge for a side that has just crossed the Indian ocean to adapt to conditions.

“We would like to finish this first phase well before we go on tour. It will be a great challenge for us and we know that we need a huge effort to beat the defending champions,” said Ludeke.

“Our work rate will be very important as the Chiefs do not like to kick away possession – so we will have to make a lot of tackles,” he added.

From their shaky start to the tournament the Bulls seemed to have become a more cohesive unit with combinations starting to settle.

While the reintroduction of experienced players has been vital to their success, the accuracy of fly-half Jacques Louis Potgieter's boot has been the biggest blessing the Bulls have received thus far.

His kicking from hand, in particular, compliments their age-old game plan although even the pivot would admit that without the ball he is just another number on the field.

On that front the Bulls loose-trio made a huge step-up with the return of another Potgieter – Dewald – at number eight as he gives the side another option at the all important breakdowns and line-outs.

Prediction: The Chiefs are likely to score a few splendid tries and enjoy the ascendency early on, but are unlikely to sustain pressure for the duration of the match. Bulls to win by at eight points.

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcel vd Merwe, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Jono Ross, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Morné Mellet

Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Anton Lienert-Brown, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Ben Afeaki, 19 Michael Fitzgerald, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Tim Nanai-Williams

Date: Saturday, March 29
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 15:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)