The Blue Bulls will be looking to back up their impressive start to the Currie Cup Premier Division season as they head to Bloemfontein to face the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday.
The men from Pretoria romped past Western Province in their opening clash at Loftus Versfeld last week, charging to a 38-0 on the hour mark before taking their foot off the gas, eventually winning 45-26.
The Cheetahs produced a barnstorming second-half to secure a 44-16 bonus-point win over Boland in Wellington in their first match. After a tight first-half, the Free Staters' second-half revival led them to score five tries.
The Blue Bulls will be hunting their fifth successive victory against the Free State Cheetahs. Before last year’s defeat at home, however, the Cheetahs won four and drew one of their last five matches against the Bulls in Bloemfontein.
The Cheetahs’ discipline cost them dearly in their last three Currie Cup Premier Division matches against the Blue Bulls. The Pretoria side slotted over a combined total of 13 penalty goals in those matches, which allowed them to keep the scoreboard ticking, contributing to victories in all three matches.
The last time these teams met: The Blue Bulls have won the last three Premier Division matches against their Bloemfontein counterparts and pipped them 20-17 in the Currie Cup Qualifiers earlier this year.
Head coach Nollis Marais said the good performance delivered by his team last weekend against WP will mean nothing if the momentum cannot be maintained.
"We did well, especially in the first half against WP, but we cannot rest on our laurels. The Free State Cheetahs is packed with quality players all around their team and they will ask serious questions of our temperament and commitment, especially as it is their first home match in the Currie Cup. We need to be switched on for this one."
Team news: The Free State Cheetahs have made four changes to their team. In the forward pack Torsten van Jaarsveld replaces Joseph Dweba at hooker, with Dweba dropping out of the squad as Jacques du Toit provides cover in the 16 jersey. In the backline Tian Meyer rotates with Shaun Venter in the nine jersey. And in the wake of Sergeal Petersen's injury Ryno Benjamin starts with Maphutha Dolo relegated to the substitutes. Niel Marais replaces Sias Ebersohn on the bench.
Utility back Ulrich Beyers will make a welcome return to the Blue Bulls after two years overseas. He will play at full-back in one of two enforced backline changes. Bjorn Basson switches from 15 to wing in place of injured Jade Stighling, allowing Beyers to again wear his old jersey. Dan Kriel is also starting in place of injured Dries Swanepoel in midfield.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Francois Venter, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Justin Basson, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Maphutha Dolo.
Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Dan Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Entienne Swanepoel, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Rudolph Snyman, 19 Hanro Liebenberg, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Duncan Matthews.
Date: Saturday, August 13
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17.10 (15.10 GMT)
Referee: Lesego Legoete
Assistant referees: Archie Sehlako, Jaco Kotze
TMO: JJ Wagner