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Preview: Brumbies v Bulls

28th March 2013 21:07

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Wing threat: Henry Speight

After their unbeaten run finished in Cape Town, the Brumbies return to Canberra looking to get back to winning ways against the Bulls.

Last season's clash between the two sides at Loftus saw the Bulls sneak home 36-34 against the up and coming Brumbies side, but the Australian side are underdogs no more.

Top of the Super Rugby table and Australian conference with four wins out of five, the Brumbies have kicked on from last season's impressive potential, building a squad packed full of young talent that has even been boosted by the return of Wallaby veteran George Smith, offsetting the bitter loss of David Pocock for the season due to injury.

Scrum-half Nic White comes into the starting XV but there is no return for speedster Jesse Mogg. Scott Fardy and debutant Etienne Oosthuizen will form a new-look second row.

The Brumbies came unstuck against the Stormers driving maul last weekend in Cape Town, but Jake White feels his side possess more than enough power upfront to combat a sizeable Bulls pack this weekend, who arrive with the worst scrum success rate in the tournament on 81%.

"We are comfortable enough that our team is big and strong enough against anybody and we know exactly what the Bulls are going to bring to us," said White.

"We played the Bulls at Loftus last year so we know what worked against them and what didn't. At least I know the players know at the back of their minds what's coming."

The Bulls meanwhile will arrive in Canberra after a subdued showing against the Reds in Brisbane, where the efforts to win the match came all too late after JJ Englebrecht was forced into touch going for the corner.

Truth be told, the Bulls would have been lucky to have taken a result away from Suncorp given their performance.

Three wins from five matches so far leave the Pretorians sitting behind the Sharks at the top of the South African conference, but injuries picked up against the Reds will deprive them of Flip Van Der Merwe and Grant Hattingh, with Wilhelm Steenkamp and Jean Cook called up.

Morné Steyn remains a resourceful source of points with 71 so far - second in the championship behind the Chiefs' Gareth Anscombe - and the Bulls need him at his most accurate if they are to avoid a winless tour following losses to the Crusaders and Reds.

All eyes will be on centre Jan Serfontein as the South African U20 star makes his first start in Super Rugby after two outings off the bench. Touted as a future Springbok, Serfontein is one of two changes to the backline along with winger Jürgen Visser, whilst Juandré Kruger starts in the second row.

"He [Jake White] has got a good understanding of the Bulls and mentally, they will be ready for Saturday," said Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.

"When they played here, they suffocated the opposition. They squeezed their opponents into turnovers and in South Africa, they showed what they could do with front-foot ball."

Prediction: Unstuck in Cape Town, expect the Brumbies to get back to winning ways against a physical Bulls side who are at the end of a tiring tour. Brumbies by 7.

Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Etienne Oosthuizen, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Andrew Smith, 22 Clyde Rathbone.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Jürgen Visser, 10 Mornè Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morne Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Francois Venter.

Date: Saturday, March 30
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Kick-off: 19:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)

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