Preview: Bulls v Hurricanes

Date published: February 19 2015

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Having made a false start to their Super Rugby campaign, the Bulls will be under pressure as they host the Hurricanes in Pretoria on Friday.

The Loftus faithful are not happy. Not happy at all. Losing to arch-rivals the Stormers is bad enough on any day, but giving up their proud home record in such a poor tactical display did not go down well.

Despite all the pre-season talk of turning over a new leaf, Frans Ludeke's team were as predictable and one-dimensional as ever last week. The Stormers made them pay for a handful of basic errors by snatching two counter-punch tries and against a Hurricanes side packed with firepower, they simply cannot afford a similarly below-par performance.

The Bulls had the lowest tackling success rate of any team last week having missed 26 of 129 attempted hits. With the Canes' backline full of All Blacks, a step up is required.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes make the short trip from Jo'burg to South Africa's capital fresh from a winning effort against the Lions last week. The Canes were the only side to manage less than 10 minutes in possession of the ball last week (9m23s) yet still scored over 20 points, including two tries.

They managed the most turnovers won (ten) last weekend and conceded fewer turnovers (seven) than any other side.

The Bulls won all nine of their lineouts last weekend, and will look to target the visitors throws after seeing the Lions pinch two last Friday.

The last time these team met: The Canes won 25-20 on home soil last year. Despite being outscored two tries to one, the Hurricanes claimed their first win over the Bulls in six years as they came from behind to snatch the result thanks to two late penalties from Beauden Barrett, who walked away with a personal haul of 20 points on the night.

Players to watch: Back with the Hurricanes after largely unsuccessful stints with the Highlanders and the Blues Ma'a Nonu has jetted in following the birth of his child to join his old partner in crime Conrad Smith in the Canes midfield for the first time since 2011. For the home side, look our for SA U20 full-back Jesse Kriel, who has the potenital to be a star of the future.

Team news: Regular captain and number eight Pierre Spies is back at the helm of the Bulls, taking over the captaincy from Victor Matfield and the number eight jumper from Arno Botha. The injury to Werner Kruger means Trevor Nyakane shifts to tighthead with Morne Mellett coming off the bench. Kriel replaces Jurgen Visser at full-back. The Canes have named a largely unchanged side although Nonu starts, making his 145th Super Rugby appearance. Full-back Jason Woodward is the only non-All Black in an impressive backline. Manawatu flanker Callum Gibbins is set to get his first start for the Hurricanes.

Form: The Bulls have won four of the last five clashes between the sides, limiting the Canes to fewer than 20 points in each of those matches. The Bulls lost 29-17 to the Stormers last week, their first home loss since the end of the 2013 season. The Hurricanes beat the Lions 22-8 At Ellis Park last Friday.

Predictions: It's hard to see the Bulls being worse than last week, and they certainly won't hand over possession cheaply at the breakdown the way the Lions did, meaning the Canes could struggle to get enough ball to unleash that deadly backline. If the Hurricanes give away as many penalties as last week, the Bulls will kick their way to victory. Bulls by less than sevens.

Previous results:
2014: Hurricanes won 25-20 in Napier
2013: Bulls won 48-14 in Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 26-14 in Napier
2010: Bulls won 19-18 in Pretoria

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Handrè Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23Jurgen Visser.

Huricanes: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Ardie Savea, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 James Marshall, 23 Matt Proctor

Date: Friday, February 20
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees:Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

With thanks to Opta for the stats

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