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Preview: Reds v Bulls

22nd March 2013 10:35

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Pierre Spies bulls v reds

Bulls: Gave Reds a hiding in 2012

The Reds host the Bulls in Brisbane on Saturday, with both teams looking to return to winning ways after tasting defeat last weekend.

The Queenslanders had their pride severely dented after going down to the previously winless Western Force. It was the first time the Reds had ever lost at home to the men from the west.

And the Bulls were left licking their wounds following last Saturday's crushing defeat to the Crusaders, who ended the South African tourists' unbeaten run in the tournament.

Fast forward a week later, and the Reds and Bulls will have some work to do based on their previous outings if they are to avoid back-to-back losses.

The Bulls had no answer to the power and speed of the Crusaders' high-octane game, something the misfiring Reds will be looking to exploit yet again if they can find their attacking mojo.

The 2011 champions were one of the more entertaining teams to watch with ball in hand, but seem to have lost that flair. They desperately need Quade Cooper to click, as up until now, the Wallabies pivot appears to have lost confidence in his running game.

His struggles for fluency are symptomatic of a Reds side that had been managing to win games without soaring to any great heights in what has been a scrappy start to the year.

Both sides have suffered their fair share of injuries, but the Bulls' casualty list is far worse. Whilst the Reds will sorely miss Liam Gill (knee), the Bulls are without stalwart backs Wynard Olivier, Francois Hougaard and Akona Ndungane.

In fact, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has only retained six players who started in Christchurch. Not all are due to injuries though. Points machine Morne Steyn, with 110 Super Rugby caps under the belt, is benched for the first time after Ludeke preferred Louis Fouche at fly-half.

History is also against the Bulls when they play the Reds away from home -losing eight of nine matches on Queensland soil. In their 2011 clash at Suncorp Stadium, the Bulls lost 39-30 - scoring three tries in reply to the Reds' six. Last year in Pretoria the Bulls scored eight tries to one in their runaway 61-8 win.

Prediction: The Bulls won't go down without a fight, but it's hard to see them coming away with a win unless they empty their star-studded bench early on. Reds by seven!

The teams:

Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Curtis Browning, 20 Nigel Ah Wong, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Mike Harris.

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Juandré Kruger, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Jan Serfontein.

Date: Saturday, March 23
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19.40 (10.40 SA time; 08.40 GMT)
Referee: James Leckie (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)

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