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Preview: Bulls v Waratahs

26th April 2013 06:51

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Bjorn Basson Bulls wing v W Force 2013

Starting: Bjorn Basson

It's been over a decade since the Waratahs tasted victory in South Africa's capital, so it's fair to say the Aussie tourists will start Saturday's clash with the Bulls as massive underdogs.

The Waratahs' home record against the three-time Super Rugby champions doesn't make for pretty reading either. Their last wins in Sydney were in 2005 - in the semi-final (23-13) and their home round (42-12).

So if you add it all up, it will be 2,899 days since the Waratahs' last victory over the Bulls when they take to the field on Saturday - or rather seven years, 11 months and seven days.

Be that as it may, Michael Cheika's troops can write a fresh chapter in their history this weekend if they can put those previous results behind them and take the physical bulls by the horns (so to speak).

Both teams are on an upward curve - the Bulls have won both their matches since returning to South Africa following their tough tour Down Under, while the Waratahs have put a slow start to the competition behind them by winning three of their last four encounters.

They also showed last week against the Chiefs that they have what it takes to beat the top sides in the competition, but will have to try do so this time around without the support of their home crowd and in a country they haven't won in since 2009 (against the Lions).

With most expecting this game to be won and lost up front, the tenth-placed Waratahs do boast an all-Wallaby pack and will look to lay the platform for Bernard Foley to work his magic and dangerous outside back Israel Folau - playing his first match in South Africa - to do the damage out wide.

The Bulls, who are third on the ladder and first in the South African conference, have never been short of Test caps amongst the forwards either with Arno Botha the only player yet to wear a Bok jersey. The hosts have also shown they can offer plenty on attack and don't just play 10-man rugby, with 10 of their 16 tries scored by the backs.

One backline player in particular has taken to the Super Rugby arena like a duck to water, and the Waratahs will need to keep an eye on rising star Jan Serfontein. In his debut season, the IRB Junior World Championship Player of the Year has made the number 12 jersey his own ever since making his first start against the Brumbies.

He was named man of the match in the Bulls' crushing win over the Kings last weekend, but faces a formidable midfield partnership in the form of Wallabies duo Rob Horne and Adam Ashley-Cooper - with the latter hitting all the right notes at outside centre.

Prediction: A fast start is crucial for the Waratahs, but the tough part will be holding on to whatever lead they can manage against the Bulls who are undefeated at home thus far in 2013. For seven straight matches, the Bulls have been on the winning side and we don't foresee that changing this weekend. Bulls by 9!

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson , 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Hencus van Wyk, 18 Paul Willemse, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouchè, 22 Lionel Mapoe.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Tom Kingston, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Paddy Ryan, 17 John Ulugia, 18 Mitchell Chapman, 19 Pat McCutcheon, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Ben Volavola, 22 Peter Betham.

Date: Saturday , April 27
Venue: Loftus Versfeld
Kick-off: 17:05 (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Sindile Mayende (South Africa), Ben Crouse (South Africa)
Television match official: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)

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