Planet Rugby

Preview: Bulls v Brumbies

22nd May 2014 10:25

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Stephen Moore Bulls Brumbies semi 2013

Hard-fought: Bulls v Brumbies

The Bulls enter Friday's showdown against the Brumbies in Pretoria knowing all too well that the visitors from Canberra are more than capable of derailing their play-off ambitions.

It is indeed rare for any side to arrive at Loftus Versfeld with the added confidence gained from a knock-out victory over the Bulls in their backyard and it would therefore also be considered an anomaly if the Brumbies manage to make it two from two at one of the toughest venues on the Super Rugby circuit.

With the business end of the competition rapidly approaching, the Bulls find themselves in a position where one loss could signal the end of their chances of finishing in the top six.

So for them, this contest can be seen as a repeat last year's semi-final (which they lost in the most bizarre fashion) and one can say with some certainty that they are likely to kick for goal, and not for the corner, should the match be as close as it was the last time they met.

The Brumbies, who surprisingly left Bloemfontein last week with only a losing bonus point to show for their efforts against the Cheetahs, should be better acclimatised to local conditions while one of the biggest challenges their hosts face is the effect their bye is likely to have on their performance.

On that front a lot will depend on regular skipper Flip van der Merwe and fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter who both have seen very little action over the last month.

Van der Merwe returns this week after serving out a three-week ban while Potgieter enjoyed a strategic break from the frontlines of battle while Handre Pollard called the shots.

"We are well rested following a bye last week and we trained well this week," Van der Merwe said in earlier in the week.

"It is important to start the match with a lot of energy and I believe everyone will do so."

Interestingly enough, one of the most significant changes to the Brumbies side this week happens to be in the second row where Van der Merwe's physicality and Victor Matfield's lineout skills should present a real challenge.

Brumbies director of rugby, Laurie Fisher, had the luxury of bringing two-meter-man Leon Power back to his setup to help combat that specific battle and his return from a knee injury has resulted in Scott Fardy shifting to flanker with Foto Auelua and Jordan Smiler finding themselves on the bench.

And despite having come out on top the last time these sides met, Fisher maintained that it would take something special for his side to finish their trip to South Africa with some reward.

"The Bulls at Loftus is one of world rugby's great challenges," Fisher said.

"The Bulls lift to another level when they play on the high-veldt so we will need to be at our best.

"Our full focus is on making the most of the opportunities we will be presented, to stick to the processes we've worked on through the week and to come away from Loftus with a win."

Bulls coach Frans Lukede shared Fisher's sentiment on the level of play that will be required to walk away with the win.

"We will need to be at our best in facing a Brumbies side that has played some great rugby this year," said Ludeke.

With so little separating these sides as far as skill and determination is concerned, the accuracy of their playmakers will be vital and on that front the performances of scrum-halves Francois Hougaard and Nic White are likely to have a significant impact on the game.

Previous results:
2013: Brumbies won 26-23 in Pretoria
2013: Brumbies won 23-20 in Canberra
2012: Bulls won 36-34 in Pretoria
2010: Bulls won 50-32 in Pretoria

Prediction: The Brumbies might have to settle for another losing bonus point as few things inspire the Bulls as much as being humiliated at home. Bulls to win it by five!

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe (c), 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling
Replacements: 16 Bongo Mbonambi, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Leon Power, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Fotu Auelua, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Pat McCabe

Date: Friday 23rd May
Venue: Loftus Versfeld
Kick-off: 1910 local, 1810 BST
Referee: Craig Joubert (SA)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Johan Greeff

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