Planet Rugby

Preview: Bulls v Highlanders

17th May 2013 08:09

Share:

Colin Slade

Wayward kicking: Colin Slade

A win at the Bulls' fortress of Loftus Versveld is not something many teams can claim to have achieved in recent years, particularly those from foreign shores, but the Highlanders do have this feather in their cap.

Indeed, they have recorded back-to-back wins against the Bulls, first at Loftus in 2011 when they notched up four tries on their way to a 35-28 victory and then again last season when they edged out the Bulls 16-11 in Dunedin. Unfortunately for the Highlanders, that is where the pleasant reading ends.

Jamie Joseph's men have endured a horror season that has seen them win just one match. Far too often the Highlanders have showed glimpses of class but have either not been able to deliver a sustained performance or have made costly decisions in tight matches. Whether it be allowing the Cheetahs to run out to a 30-point cushion or let a 27-12 lead over the Chiefs end in a 41-27 loss, all too often the Highlanders just haven't been at the races.

Last week's 34-27 defeat at the hands of the Kings will be of particular disappointment as it appeared that they may just be righting the ship after picking up a win over the Sharks.

The men from Otago have been disappointing in most areas save the back three, with Colin Slade's solid general play offset by poor goal-kicking and a front-row boasting a mass of experience often not asserting themselves.

Both Slade and the forward pack will need to be on their game if they are to have any chance against the Bulls. Like all South African teams the Bulls are a physical bunch, with the Pretoria outfit perhaps leading the way in these stakes. If the Highlanders cannot put a dent in the Bulls forward charge then the game will by one of damage limitation from the first whistle.

The Highlanders are all too wary of the power of the Bulls at set pieces so don't be surprised to see Slade and Aaron Smith looking for space rather than touch come Saturday as Joseph's troops look to counter the Bulls physical, structured game with some running rugby.

The Bulls come into the game on the back of a bye and skipper Pierre Spies, who will be making his 100th appearance for the franchise, has spoken of being wary of the impact this will have. Even if they aren't firing at full pace from the outset, one can't imagine the Bulls being off the boil to an extent that would allow the Highlanders into the contest. Indeed, there is too much on the line for the Bulls to lose their focus.

A loss could see them slip from being top of the South African conference to out of the play-off spots completely and with the congested nature of the table, there really is little room for error.

The hosts have been boosted by the return of mercurial scrum-half Francois Hougaard who replaces the in-form Jano Vermaark while young gun Jan Serfontein slots in at centre having recovered from injury.

Prediction: The Bulls will have too much in the tank for the Highlanders. Bulls by 12.

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouchè, 22 Bjorn Basson.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Tino Nemani, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Mose Tuiali'i, 7 John Hardie, 6 Joe Wheeler, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Elliot Dixon, 19 TJ Ioane, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Hayden Parker, 22 Jason Emery.

Date: Saturday, May 18
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Venue: Loftus Versfeld
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ben Crouse (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, October 1
Hawkes Bay 36 - 14 WellingtonHawkes Bay vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411