Preview: Bulls v Reds

Date published: April 10 2015

The Bull will be keen to return to the victory trail when they host the Reds in their Super Rugby encounter in Pretoria on Saturday.

The hosts who currently top the South African Conference, after a solid run of victories, suffered a last-minute defeat to the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.

The Reds are battling after a poor start to the season and head into this clash on a five-match winless streak. Their last match against the Rebels went pear-shaped, and after taking an early 12-3 lead, they eventually suffered a 23-15 defeat after veteran lock James Horwill was sent off for foul play.

Both sides' attacking play has not been up to scratch this season and the Reds have scored the least tries (eight) – along with the Lions – in this year's competition while the Bulls have made the fewest clean breaks (30) – five more than the men from Brisbane.

The Reds are also second from bottom when it comes to metres gained (2141) with only the Cheetahs faring worse than them.

Despite the Reds' poor form so far this season Bulls captain Pierre Spies expects a tough challenge.

"They are desperate to get their season going and teams like that are always dangerous," he said.

The Brisbane-based outfit's coach Richard Graham knows a tough battle awaits his troops at one of the most daunting venues for any away team in the world.

"Pretoria is always a fantastic challenge," he said.

"The Bulls have made Loftus a fortress over the years and no Australian side has won there since 2007. That is a piece of history that the group would love to contest.

"We need to continue working collectively and the rewards will come.

"The squad has trained well in the early stages of the week, the intensity has been very good. We need to continue that as we get closer to the game.

"Discipline is a necessity."

The last time these teams met: The Reds claimed a 23-18 victory in Brisbane in 2013. The Reds outscored the visitors by two tries to none with Jono Lance and Quade Cooper dotting down for the hosts.

Players to watch: For the Bulls former SA U20 full-back Jesse Kriel who has made the Pretoria-based outfit's number 15 jersey his own. Safe under the high ball and solid on defence Kriel is also an exciting runner who has come to the fore with some fine performances in his first season of Super Rugby.

For the Reds, former All Black loose forward Adam Thomson has caught the eye with several impressive showings despite the team's poor start to the year. Thomson has impressed with his ball carrying and is a handy line-out option at the tail of the set-piece.

Team news: Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has made two changes to his run-on side for this clash. Hooker Adriaan Strauss is taking a break as part of the agreement with the South African Rugby Union to rest Springboks ahead of the Rugby World Cup and will be replaced by Callie Visagie. And in the back row, Springbok Arno Botha comes in for Hanro Liebenberg on the blindside flank. Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe is set to come off the bench after recovering from a pectoral muscle injury. He replaces Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg in the matchday 23.

The Reds welcome back Wallaby lock Rob Simmons who makes his first appearance of the season after recovering from a shoulder injury. Simmons, who replaces the suspended James Horwill is one of six changes to the Brisbane-based side's starting line-up. The other changes up front see Saia Fainga'a taking over from James Hanson at hooker while an injury to Jake Schatz means Adam Thomson moves to number eight while Curtis Browning comes in on the blindside flank. In the backline, Karmichael Hunt starts at full-back in place of Lachie Turner, who moves to the wing where he takes over from the injured James O'Connor. Another player who is injured is first-choice fly-half Quade Cooper. His place in the run-on side goes to Nick Frisby.

Form: The Bulls suffered a 22-18 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend. Before that result, they were on a four-match winning run after victories against the Sharks, Cheetahs, Western Force and Crusaders. The Reds' season got off to a poor start when they suffered a big defeat to the Brumbies in their season opener. They bounced back with a home win over the Western Force in Round Two but thenlost their next five matches to the Highlanders, Waratahs, Brumbies, Lions and Rebels.

Prediction: This will be a one-sided affair with the Bulls taking charge from start to finish. Bulls to win by 18 points!

Previous results:

2013: Reds won 23-18 in Brisbane
2012: Bulls won 61-8 in Pretoria
2011: Reds won 39-30 in Brisbane
2010: Reds won 19-12 om Brisbane
2009: Bulls won 33-20 in Pretoria.

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Callie Visagie ,1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 Nick Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Dave McDuling, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Tom Murday, 21 Adam Korczyk, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Chris Kuridrani.

Date: Saturday, April 11
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT, 03:10 AEST, 05:10 NZST)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Pro Legoete (both South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)