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Preview: Kings v Bulls

19th April 2013 07:58

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Captain of the Bulls Pierre Spies leads his team out

Leading the Bulls: Pierre Spies

With Super Rugby hitting the halfway mark this weekend, the Bulls can ill-afford to drop points in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

A few months ago you would be hard pressed to find anyone willing to give the Kings a hope in hell against the former champs but after a relatively successful tour overseas, the new boys from the Eastern Cape simply cannot be regarded as pushovers.

More significant than the Kings' two victories so far, the draw against the Brumbies in Canberra is proof that no one should take the threat they pose lightly.

Nevertheless, the Bulls will start as favourites at a sold-out Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Although the three-time champions have not exactly set fields alight this season, they've scored the fewest tries in the tournament, over the years the Bulls have built a reputation for getting the job done when the chips are down - as they did last week against a much-improved Cheetahs outfit.

With a very difficult tour behind them, it's now time for Pierre Spies and co. to make a case for a place in the play-offs. If the Cheetahs can trip up the Sharks in Durban, the SA Conference lead is within reach.

The Kings are getting their first taste of the infamous travel factor in Super Rugby this year as they return from Melbourne. While it's harder to fly east, they have now had to change time zones for the second time in a month. And unlike their visitors, the schedulers have not given the Kings a bye week to recover from their travels.

Returning from tour is notoriously hard. Both the Bulls and Sharks lost their first games back in the Republic last year while in 2011 four of the five SA teams failed to win upon their return home.

But at least the Kings will be returning in high spirits, buoyed by victory over the Rebels (it took a few other South African franchises a lot longer to gain their first overseas win). They also welcome back their most influential player and skipper, a certain Luke Watson.

Despite the Kings surprisingly competitive entry into the competition, the Bulls will certainly be expected to win this weekend. For all their tenacity and courage, the Kings still lack the kind of attack required to upset the top sides.

As coach and recent father of triplets Frans Ludeke mentioned this week, the key for the Bulls will be patience. The Kings defence has proved incredibly hard to break down, but no team can tackle for 80 minutes. If the Bulls use their possession meaningfully, and diligently, the points will come.

The teams:

Kings: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Ronnie Cooke, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Luke Watson (c), 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Hannes Franklin, 17 Grant Kemp, 18 Rynier Barnardo, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Marcello Sampson, 22 Siviwe Soyizwapi.

Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Paul Willemse, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Louis Fouchè, 22 Bjorn Basson.

Date: Saturday, 20 April
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off:19:10 (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)

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