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Super Rugby preview: Bulls

11th February 2013 15:54

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Pierre Spies Bulls skipper 2012

Needs to shine: Pierre Spies

With the new Super Rugby season looming large on the horizon we take a look at each of the fifteen competitors. Next up, the Bulls!

Last Year: 2012 was a case of out with the old, and in with the new. And South Africa's most successful Super Rugby team did pretty well to reach the play-offs, considering that they had to do so without their departed Springbok stars. Ten wins from sixteen outings saw the Bulls finish sixth on the overall standings, which meant they had to face the Crusaders.in Christchurch where they were humbled 28-13. Not the result they were hoping for, but we'll give them 9/10 for effort getting there.

This year: The core of this Bulls side is the same to last year's group with the only main absentee being promising flank CJ Stander. Next year they'll be without veterans Juandré Kruger and Morne Steyn (both off to France), and perhaps a couple more old heads leaving the capital city. So if there was any time for the Bulls to really make a go at winning their fourth Super Rugby title, it's now. They have a good generational mix with young talent and enough experience to anchor their campaign, and certainly have all the attributes to finish at the top of the SA conference. If they can do that, the Bulls may even go all the way to the final where anything can happen.

Players to watch: Two players with plenty to prove are fly-half Morne Steyn and number eight Pierre Spies. The Springbok duo are struggling to find the form that made them household names and number one on Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer's team sheet. Spies is powerfully built, and a very strong runner. He is quick and gets over the gain line with monotonous regularity. However, he can be a bit inconsistent but when on form he is a dynamo. One of world rugby's most accomplished goal-kickers, Steyn lost his way playing for the Boks. He needs to find the confidence that made him a points scoring machine.

Noteworthy signings: Callie Visagie (Lions), Grant Hattingh (Lions), Lionel Mapoe (Lions), Marcell van der Merwe (Cheetahs), Paul Willemse (Lions), Willie Wepener (Clermont)

Noteworthy losses: CJ Stander (Munster), Gerrit-Jan Van Velze (Northampton), Johann Sadie (Cheetahs) and Rayno Gerber (Rovigo)

Prospects: The Bulls have proven over the years that they are a force to be reckoned with - and have three titles to show for it. The past two seasons have not gone their way, but nevertheless boast a wealth of talent. They're almost unbeatable at home, but need to find their travel legs in order to be real title contenders. And with Springbok legend Victor Matfield now coaching the forwards and Derrick Hougaard taking care of skills and kicking... the Bulls are in good hands.

Fixtures:

22 February: v Stormers - Home
2 March: v Force - Home
10 March: v Blues - Away
16 March: v Crusaders - Away
23 March: v Reds Away
30 March: v Brumbies - Away
13 April: v Cheetahs - Home

20 April: v Kings - Away
27 April: v Waratahs - Home
4 May: v Hurricanes - Home
18 May: v Highlanders - Home
25 May: v Sharks - Away
1 June: v Cheetahs - Away
29 June:v Kings - Home
6 July: v Sharks - Home
13 July: v Stormers - Away

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Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Crusaders1651
3Sharks1650
4Brumbies1645
5Chiefs1644
6Highlanders1642
7Hurricanes1641
8Western Force1640
9Bulls1638
10Blues1637
11Stormers1632
12Lions1631
13Reds1628
14Cheetahs1624
15Melbourne Rebels1621
Australian Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Brumbies1645
3Western Force1640
4Reds1628
5Melbourne Rebels1621
New Zealand Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Crusaders1651
2Chiefs1644
3Highlanders1642
4Hurricanes1641
5Blues1637
South African Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Sharks1650
2Bulls1638
3Stormers1632
4Lions1631
5Cheetahs1624