The Bulls will need to nullify Sam Carter and the Brumbies' rolling maul if they hope to win in Canberra on Friday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Bulls may still be buzzing after an emphatic and monumental victory against the Force in round 10. The 42-20 bonus-point win in Perth brought an end to the Bulls' four-year drought in Australia.
In the context of the 2016 season, however, the job is far from done. The Bulls currently trail the Stormers by one point on the Africa 1 conference log. If the Bulls win in round 11 while the Stormers are out of action with a bye, they will move to the top of the conference and lead the South African group.
The Brumbies are certainly there for the taking. Reports from Canberra suggest that the infighting at board level has had a negative effect on the players.
The Brumbies began the 2016 season well and many felt they might finish the conference stage at the top of the Australasian group. However, the events of the past month or so have contributed to a dip in form as well as a series of defeats. The Brumbies have dropped to sixth in the Australasian group, and to second in the Australian conference.
That said, the Brumbies don't lose too many matches in Canberra, and have only ever lost once to the Bulls in the Australian capital. The Bulls will need to be at their best to secure a win on Friday.
Last week, the Bulls produced an outstanding performance at the collisions and breakdowns. They controlled the pace of the game, and used turnover ball to good effect. The Bulls will have to replicate that effort when fronting a Brumbies side that boasts one of the world's finest breakdown exponents in David Pocock.
The battle at the set pieces could be just as crucial to the outcome. According to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats, the Brumbies have scored 15 of their 28 tries this season from first phase. Only the Hurricanes (22) have scored more from the set piece.
The Brumbies are renowned for their scrummaging and lineout play. It wouldn't surprise to see them using the latter set piece as a weapon on Friday, or to see No 5 lock Sam Carter marshalling the rolling maul towards the Bulls' tryline.
The Bulls' second-row combination of RG Snyman and Marvin Orie will have an important role to play in countering the Brumbies' lineout. Snyman has had a big season to date, winning 44 lineouts (the third-most in the competition) and stealing two on the opposition throw.
The Bulls have proved that they have the skills to capitalise once the pack has laid the platform. Francois Brummer and SP Marais kicked well last week, while the likes of Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel dazzled with their running in broken play.
The Bulls have a great opportunity to take the lead in the South African group. They will, however, need to fight tooth and nail to deny a Brumbies side that will be desperate for any sort of win.
STATS AND FACTS
– The Brumbies have won three of their last four matches against the Bulls, though the last time they beat the Bulls by more than a converted try was in round five, 2003.
– A brace of matches against New Zealand opposition leaves the Brumbies with a streak of two losses going into this fixture. The last time they lost more than two matches in a row was in round 13, 2011.
– The Bulls have won their last three matches away from home. A fourth straight away win would make it the longest streak in their history.
– Christian Leali'ifano has kicked 34 goals so far this season, the most of any Australia-based player in the competition.
– Francois Brummer has scored 67 points so far this season, the most of any player who is yet to cross for a try.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Brumbies||Christian Leali'ifano (85)||Joe Tomane (6)||Joe Tomane (483)||David Pocock (65)|
|Bulls||Francois Brummer (67)||Jamba Ulengo, Adriaan Strauss (4)||Warrick Gelant (373)||Jannes Kirsten (72)|
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Robbie Coleman, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Nigel Ah Wong, 10 Christian Leali'ifano, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Les Leuluailii-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Jordan Smiler, 22 Joe Powell, 23 James Dargaville.
Bulls – 15 SP Marais, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Dan Kriel.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Will Houston (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
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Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images