Preview: Lions v Bulls

Date published: April 3 2015

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In what should be a rousing Jukskei derby, a very confident Lions outfit host the Bulls who themselves have reason to smile after last week.

After a slow start to the season, the pride of Johannesburg recorded a record three wins on their Australasian tour and will now be eager to bank their first win on home soil.

One of the main contributing factors to their success on the road has been their ability to remain composed in pressure situations and that will again be key when they take on a rejuvenated Bulls squad.

As far as derbies between these sides are concerned, this may be the first time that the Bulls make the trip to Johannesburg knowing that nothing but their best will be enough to overcome a side that is growing in stature every week.

The Bulls have won ten out of their last eleven Super Rugby showdowns with the Lions – the sole loss just so happened to be the last time they met in Doornfontein.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies, who is perhaps the only man in his team struggling to find form, noted in the build-up to the match that his men are anticipating an 80-minute battle against a side that will throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.

"We played great rugby last weekend, but that will mean nothing to the Lions, who will come out all guns blazing on their home turf. We lost there last year, so have a lot to prove this time around," said Spies.

For Lions captain Warren Whiteley it is a case of proving that his team has rid themselves of the underdogs tag.

"We're not outsiders anymore," said the Lions skipper.

"We've matured a lot this past year and therefore the expectations should be higher. If we want to move up in the log standings, we have to start winning against the big guns."

The last time these teams met: The Lions recorded a shock 32-21 victory over the Bulls in Johannesburg with fly-half Marnitz Boshoff contributing 22 of his team's points with the boot. As is the case this week, it marked the Lions' first match back on South African soil and they showed very little signs of jet lag against a Bulls outfit that would go on to experience one of their worst Super Rugby seasons to date.

Players to watch: Lions captain Warren Whiteley has been their pillar of strength playing in a loose-trio that has caused all sorts of trouble for every team they have faced thus far. Centre Lionel Mapoe has been in good form as well and the attacking play of fly-half Elton Jantjies should also not go by unnoticed in this match. For the Bulls, the work-rate of lock Jacques du Plessis has been a revelation. Equally the pace injected to the game by scrum-half Rudy Paige has ensured that front-foot ball has become the norm. Do keep an eye out for Burger Odendaal in midfield – the youngster has both skill and pace and is eager to cement a permanent spot in the run-on team.

Team news: In the Lions camp Jacques van Rooyen starts at loosehead prop ahead of Schalk van der Merwe, while Andries Ferreira was selected ahead of Robert Kruger in the second-row. In a solitary backline change Anthony Volmink starts ahead of Sampie Mastriet.

The Bulls have had some injury scares as star fly-half Handre Pollard is replaced by veteran Jacques-Louis Potgieter. The evergreen Victor Matfield is also on the list of injured players, Grant Hattingh will take over the line-out responsibilities. Finally, in a tweak to their pack, Dean Greyling will start ahead of Morne Mellett.

Form: The Lions have been red hot in recent weeks with three wins to show from their last four outings. The Bulls have only recently hit their straps, but are also playing some of their best rugby of the season.

Prediction: The Bulls will be banking on the Lions fading towards the end of the contest and should therefore try and lift the match tempo early on. The Lions are, however, a resilient team and should sneak in a five-point win as they look to win their first match at home this season.

Previous results:

2014: Lions won 32-21 in Johannesburg
2014: Bulls won 25-17 in Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 37-20 in Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 32-18 in Johannesburg

The teams:

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Howard Mnisi.

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 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss,1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17:05 local (05:05 GMT, 02:05 AEST, 03:05 NZST)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Jason Jaftha, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

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