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Preview: Bulls v Lions

28th February 2014 02:42

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Marnitz Boshoff Lions Super rugby kick

Red-hot boot: Marnitz Boshoff

Long forgotten are the memories of the Bulls winning the South African conference as they face a high-pressure derby against the Lions.

Instead there is a palpable amount of concern at headquarters in Pretoria as the three-time champions look to avoid their third consecutive defeat when they to host their neighbours at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls are desperate to return to winning ways and are appreciative of the fact that they have to pull it together against a famished Lions outfit, who marked their return to the big leagues with victories over the Cheetahs and Stormers.

What has made the Lions' solid start so impressive is that no less than 11 players enjoyed their first taste of Super Rugby at the start of the season, while many more new caps are likely to be introduced as the inevitable injuries start taking their toll.

On that front the men from Johannesburg suffered a huge blow in the build-up to the contest as flanker Derrick Minnie has been sidelined after breaking his jaw in an incident involving Schalk Burger the previous week.

The onus of exerting sufficient pressure at the breakdown will now rest on the shoulders of Jaco Kriel, who has yet to disappoint in the number six jersey.

The absence of Alwyn Hollenbach, one the Lions' most experienced backline players, may also have left a void in their midfield although fly-half Marnitz Boshoff has stamped his authority as the team's main decision maker.

The combination of Boshoff's scintillating boot and the team's unprecedented unity in defence has, thus far, compensated for whatever they may lack in experience.

As far as experience is concerned, the Bulls were forced into a situation where they had to reintroduce known leaders into a seemingly bewildered setup.

In another interesting, move Grant Hattingh will start in the injured Pierre Spies' place in the backrow - highlighting the struggles the fetcher-less side is dealing with at the most important facet of play.

To compensate for the tremendous talent drain and injury setbacks the team has been subjected to in recent times, coach Frans Ludeke has handed veteran lock Victor Matfield his beloved number five jersey following two starts from the bench and he also roped-in Jacques-Louis Potgieter, who freshly returned from France.

While Matfield will be out to assert his dominance over newly capped Springbok Franco van der Merwe, Potgieter's mongrel instincts will be tested against Boshoff who was schooled in Bulls rugby prior to his move to Doornfontein.

It will undoubtedly be one of the most important Jukskei derbies in recent Super Rugby history, although for the first time it will be on the traditional winners who will be under the most pressure to deliver a result.

Prediction: There is too much at stake for the home side to let this one slip. Bulls to slug out a six-point win.

The teams:

Bulls:15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers

Lions:15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 JW Jonker , 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni , 20 Willie Britz, 21. Ross Cronjé, 22 Courtnall Skosan, 23 Coenie van Wyk

Date: Saturday, March 1
Kick-off: 19:10 (17.10 GMT)
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
Television match official:Johan Greef (South Africa)

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