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Preview: Bulls v Hurricanes

02nd May 2013 20:29

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Starter: Wynand Olivier

The in-form Bulls will try to maintain their position on top of the South African Conference against the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld.

Unbeaten in April following a bye week - victories over the Cheetahs, Kings and most recently the Waratahs have elevated the 2010 champions to the top of the domestic table and third on the overall log.

They have not been short of tries - with eight in their last three matches - but the rout of the Kings was a particular highlight.

The newcomers to Super Rugby have been bullish in their opening matches, yet the Bulls prevented them from scoring a single point in Port Elizabeth whilst running in four tries of their own. Sure their squad is stronger, but winning 34-0 is a sign of ruthlessness that cannot be ignored.

Frans Ludeke's side though are not without their flaws. Surprisingly, they have the least successful scrum in the competition at 80 percent, a concern compared to the Hurricanes' 92 percent.

The pack maybe struggling at the scrum, but the traditional Bulls strengths at the line-out and with the boot should tell as ever.

The Bulls boast the best success rate at the line-out in Super Rugby with 88.9 percent, the departing Juandré Kruger leading the way with 36 takes so far.

Morné Steyn's boot should prove influential as ever, given his status as the second highest points scorer in the league with 132. His 25-point haul last weekend against the Waratahs meant he fully deserved to win Man of the Match.

The Hurricanes have an accurate marksman of their own in Beauden Barrett who has racked up over 100 points, but their greatest weapon lies on the wing in Julian Savea.

Recent personal problems aside, Savea has been one of the top performers in Super Rugby this season, heading the stats fors carriers and metres made, with a penchant for humiliating would-be tacklers.

Last year it was full-back Andre Taylor who was grabbing the headlines, but he has struggled so far to replicate the promise he showed in 2012 despite his try in the loss to the Stormers last weekend.

Tusi Pisi is perhaps the key selection at inside centre as the Hurricanes look for a spark in midfield to get them over the gain line.

Statisically the Hurricanes are middle of the road in terms of their attack and the scrum would appear to offer a small advantage, but their record at Loftus stands against them having not won there since 2008.

Take away the 16-18 loss to the Stormers however and the Hurricanes are in good shape, with three victories in their last five matches that saw them score 10 tries in two matches against the Kings and Waratahs.

Savea and Pisi are the two major changes along with Ash Dixon, who will make his first Super Rugby start with hooker Motu Matu'u out injured.

The Bulls meanwhile have named Wynand Olivier, Deon Stegmann and Jürgen Visser in their starting line-up, with Arno Botha, Frik Kirsten and Grant Hattingh on the bench.

Prediction: With the Bulls unbeaten at home so far this season and the Hurricanes in slightly inconsistent form, a home win seems likely. Bulls by 8.

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Louis Fouchè, 22 Lionel Mapoe.

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tusi Pisi, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Reggie Goodes, 17 Ben May, 18 Mark Reddish, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Tim Bateman.

Date: Saturday, May 4
Kick-off: 19:10 local (18:10 BST, 17:10 GMT)
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Attie Buitendag (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

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