Bulls forwards need to fire

The Bulls pack will have a point to prove when the Pretoria side battles the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.

The Bulls started their tour to Australia with a convincing win over the Force in Perth. Their forwards set the platform for that victory, and there was good reason to be confident ahead of the subsequent matches against the Brumbies and Waratahs.

Unfortunately, the Bulls falied to replicate that forward effort against the Brumbies in Canberra. The hosts won the collisions and breakdowns, and so controlled the pace of the game. Ultimately, the Brumbies handed the Bulls a 23-6 hiding.

The Bulls should be hurting after that 17-point loss. The forwards should be determined to atone for that poor performance when they tackle the Waratahs this Saturday.

The Waratahs, of course, will have other ideas. In the wake of their 21-6 win against the Cheetahs, Waratahs captain Michael Hooper spoke about the next challenge against the Bulls. Hooper highlighted the threat of the Bulls pack.

Despite those statements, the Waratahs should look to attack the Bulls forwards. The visitors can expect a lot of pressure at the scrum. Marcel van der Merwe, the most penalised player in the competition, will have plenty to prove.

According to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats, the Bulls are ranked 15th in the competition for their ruck efficiency (93%). This doesn't bode well for a contest against the Waratahs, who are ranked fifth in this category. The Bulls loose trio of Lappies Labuschagne, Jannes Kirsten and Hanro Liebenberg will have it all to do against a pack stacked with Wallabies.

The Bulls can't afford to lose the battle at the set pieces and breakdowns. They can't allow the Waratahs forwards to build momentum and provide front-foot ball to the backs.

In that scenario, Israel Folau will prove difficult to contain. The move from fullback to No 13 this season has certainly not diluted Folau's attacking potency. Folau has already scored six tries in 2016, and is ranked third in the competition for metres made (669).

Overall: Bulls 11, Waratahs 9
In Sydney: Waratahs 7, Bulls 3

– The Waratahs won their last meeting against the Bulls in 2014. However, the Pretoria side won eight on the bounce against the Tahs before that.
– Of the 35 players to take 20-plus lineout throws this season, Adriaan Strauss has the best success rate (95%) despite only one player taking more throws (112).
– As well as a strong lineout, the Bulls boast the best tackling success rate in the competition (88%).
– No side has conceded fewer tries in the final quarter of matches this season than the Tahs (three), while the Bulls have conceded the fewest first-half tries (four).
Source: Opta

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Waratahs Bernard Foley (69) Israel Folau (6) Israel Folau (669) Michael Hooper (108)
Bulls Francois Brummer (73) Jamba Ulengo, Adriaan Strauss (4) Warrick Gelant (373) Jannes Kirsten (77)

Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Ned Hanigan/Jack Dempsey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro.

Bulls – 15 SP Marais, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Dries Swanepoel.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

SA Rugby magazine team's SuperBru picks

Lions vs Blues

Jaguares vs Sharks

Sunwolves vs Stormers

Cheetahs vs Kings

Highlanders vs Crusaders

Hurricanes vs Reds

Rebels vs Brumbies

Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli