Preview: Pumas v Blue Bulls

Date published: September 9 2016

The Blue Bulls need to beat the Pumas in Nelspruit on Saturday if they want to stay in the top four going into the business end of the season.

Conversely, the Pumas are still looking for their first win of the Currie Cup campaign in a miserable campaign for them so far. They are second from bottom on the log, their five bonus-points keeping them above the EP Kings.

The Blue Bulls are sitting pretty in fourth place on 15 points, but they have played one game more than the Lions and Western Province who are directly below them. Victory in Nelspruit will keep them in the play-off places for another week and if they want to play it safe they can't really afford a slip-up in the final weeks of the competition.

The men from Pretoria have been dominant against the Pumas over the years, with their track record showing only two defeats against the Lowvelders in the Currie Cup Premier Division since 1997 – in 2010 and 2001 respectively.

Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais has been forced to make two changes to his starting XV for the game. Hanro Liebenberg has been named as captain after the injury of Arno Botha. 

Marais was forced to replace the injured Duncan Matthews and Botha, who both started in the win over the Golden Lions last weekend, and handed starts to Ulrich Beyers and Nic de Jager respectively. Liebenberg will take over the captaincy from Botha and De Jager the number seven jersey.

Both newcomers played off the bench last weekend and their spots as impact players will be taken by Divan Rossouw and Irné Herbst. Utility-back and regular Blue Bulls Under-21 player Rossouw will make his debut should he take the field.

"We are playing our most important match of the season, so I am happy to have a side with a fair bit of momentum and consistency in selection," Marais said.

"Consistency is of paramount importance for us at this stage of the season as we are yet to deliver two back-to-back performances of note. The Pumas would have targeted this game as a must-win, but we are also pretty desperate for a second win on the trot."

The last time these teams met: The Pumas registered a surprising 25-13 victory at Loftus Versfeld, scoring four tries to one. The hosts were rocked by a three-try burst in just five minutes in the first half while they were held scoreless in the second half.

Prediction: This match should result in a straight forward win for the Blue Bulls, but you never know. The Pumas are a wounded outfit and have nothing to lose. If the Blue Bulls underestimate them it couod come back to bite them. However, we think the men from Pretoria should have too much quality to botch this one. Blue Bulls by 10-15 points.

The teams

Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Bernado Botha, 13 Hennie Skorbinski, 12 Marlou van Niekerk, 11 JP Lewis, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Emile Temperman, 8 Renaldo Bothma (c), 7 Lambert Groenewald, 6 Brian Shabangu, 5 Jannie Syander, 4 Wiehan Hay, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Frank Herne, 1 De Jay Terblanche
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Louis Albertse, 18 Stephan Greeff, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Kevin Luiters, 21 Leighton van Wyk, 22 Ruwellyn Isbell

The Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Nic de Jager, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Lizo Gqoboka 
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Irné Herbst, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Divan Rossouw

Date: Saturday, September 10
Time: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Marnus Meiring
TMO: Willie Vos