Bulls to bully Sunwolves

The Bulls need to reduce their concession of turnovers in order to secure what should be a comfortable victory over the Sunwolves in Singapore on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

It’s been an up and down start to the season for the Bulls, with a win, loss and draw to their name, but the Pretoria-based side certainly displayed some real desire and determination in their performance against the Sharks last weekend.

However, their tendency to concede turnover ball disrupted their momentum, while Sharks flanker Marcell Coetzee proved to be a typical nuisance at the breakdown.

Although the Sunwolves don’t have a breakdown exponent of the same renowned pedigree, they do use the leg-chop tackle to good effect and have a number of players who are quick to the breakdown.

There is also a real mystery factor that the Sunwolves continue to bring to the competition, and they are a side that thrives on loose ball and that certainly doesn’t have any fear when it comes to running the ball back at inaccurate opposition.

In their last game in Singapore, the Sunwolves ran up a 31-13 lead against the Cheetahs before fading to a disappointing 32-31 defeat, and they’ve now gone three games without a win.

Nevertheless, the Bulls will realise that they can’t afford to underestimate a side that really has nothing to lose. This is also a crucial game for the Bulls in terms of keeping up the pressure on Africa 2 conference front-runners, the Stormers.

The Bulls have been boosted by the return of Jesse Kriel at outside centre, while Tian Schoeman could add something different as he comes in at flyhalf, with talented Jason Jenkins and Lizo Gqoboka coming into the pack in two changes up front.

After this encounter, the Bulls will face the Cheetahs, Kings, Reds and Force. They'll realise there is a great opportunity for them to build up a head of steam, but a win over the Sunwolves will be the first priority.

And if the Bulls can dominate up front, look after possession well and deny the Sunwolves opportunities from broken play, they should really have no trouble in claiming a second win of the season.

This is the teams' first meeting

– The Bulls haven’t won a Super Rugby match outside South Africa since round four of 2013, losing their last 11 such games.
– The Sunwolves may still be searching for their maiden Super Rugby victory, but they have led at half-time in their last two matches, outscoring opponents 39-19 in that period.
– The Bulls have won only one of their last six matches immediately after a draw.
– Two of the Bulls' seven tries so far this season have originated from lineout steals, no team has scored more from that origin.
– Shinnosuke Kakinaga has conceded seven penalties in the Sunwolves’ inaugural Super Rugby campaign, only three players have conceded more.
Source: Opta

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Sunwolves Tusi Pisi (28) Akihito Yamada (3) Akihito Yamada (175) Ed Quirk (31)
Bulls Francois Brummer (32) Bjorn Basson (3) Warrick Gelant (359) Jannes Kirsten (31)
Sunwolves – TBC
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Referee: William Houston (Australia)
Assistant referees: Shuhei Kubo (Japan), Aki Aso (Japan)
TMO: Takashi Hareda (Japan)
Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis