Preview: Chiefs v Bulls

Date published: May 24 2012

The Bulls visit Hamilton for Friday's clash with the Chiefs that will go a long way to determining who plays where in the play-offs.

The Bulls visit Hamilton on Friday for a clash with the Chiefs that will go a long way to determining who plays where in the Super Rugby play-offs.

It's fair to say that both teams are expected to make the final cut considering their form this season.

The Chiefs are seven points clear of the Crusaders in the New Zealand conference, making them clear favourites for a home semi-final.

The Bulls meanwhile are in a long-distance tussle with the Stormers for top spot in the South African conference, synonymous with direct qualification for the semi-finals.

Bulls skipper Pierre Spies is well aware of the significance of this weekend's clash – the last match of their Australasian tour – and has stressed that the former champions can't afford to let opportunities slip the way they did against the Highlanders, which cost them top spot in the standings.

“When you are playing in this competition you should actually have a home semi-final to give yourself the best chance to also secure a home final,” said the Springbok number eight.

“The competition is of such a nature that you have to take it game by game, but it remains at the back of your head that you would like to have that home semi-final.”

“On many levels it would be good for us as a team to end the tour off with a victory over the Chiefs,” he added.

“It will give us a boost as they are at the top of the log. There is a lot to play for this weekend and it is the perfect match to finish off the tour.”

Fans can rest assured that the Chiefs will keep ball in hand and look to test the Bulls defence with the kind of expansive, attacking style that has served them so well this year under the guidance of former All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith.

And with the hosts coming off a bye week, there certainly shouldn't be any lack of energy, especially from their young pack which has set the benchmark for providing quality ball on attack this season.

That said, the one weakness the Chiefs have shown this season is in the decision making department, where they have sometimes taken their positive intentions a step too far and wasted opportunities that could have been converted had a more patient approach been adopted.

It's not the kind of mistake you want to make against a Bulls outfit that never panic and always confidently sticks to their structures and game-plan.

The visitors shouldn't expect any gifts from the Chiefs though as Dave Rennie's side have improved drastically on defence since last year and boast the second best defensive record in the competition.

With plenty at stake, it promises to be a huge battle.

Rugby Union betting odds

Prediction: The South African side have won the last three clashes between these two teams and the Bulls have a habit of coming up with big performances in big games. But at the end of a three-week tour, one suspects the fresher Chiefs might have the edge. Just. Chiefs by less than seven.

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga , 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick , 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Arizona Taumalolo, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 Maritino Nemani.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 CJ Stander, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Juandré Kruger, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.

Date: Friday, May 25
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)