Kriel key for Bulls

Jesse Kriel will have a vital role to play when the Bulls take on the Reds at Loftus on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Returning to outside centre for last weekend’s clash against the Kings, Kriel delivered an impressive performance, which saw him produce two try assists while also completing seven tackles without missing one.

His willingness to look for the offload, and particularly the manner in which he slipped a back-of-the-hand pass to a flying Jamba Ulengo while taking contact, provided a glimpse of the skills South African players do possess.

Besides having the ability to add a spark to the Bulls’ attack, this Saturday Kriel will line up opposite burly Reds centre, Samu Kerevi, who was in outstanding form as the Queensland-based side overcame the Highlanders last weekend.

Kerevi’s pace and power, which he prolifically demonstrated in the first half against the reigning champs, played no small part in suddenly sparking the Reds to life.

It will be crucial for Kriel, and the Bulls' defensive unit, to keep Kerevi under wraps, with the Fijian-born playmaker having made a competition-high 164m over the gainline during last weekend's match.

Having secured their first win of the season on the back of that immense individual performance, the Reds will come to Pretoria feeling far more confident than they would have a few weeks ago.

However, after travelling to South Africa after a gruelling clash against the Highlanders, their ability to recover and then produce another sprightly performance, especially on the highveld, will be another key factor on Saturday.

They will also be coming up against a Bulls side that has begun to build up a head of steam, and there were certainly signs against the Kings that they are starting to find the desired balance in their play.

Coach Nollis Marais has tweaked his backline for this encounter, with Rudy Paige returning from injury, while Francois Brummer and Bjorn Basson come in at flyhalf and on the left wing respectively.

The Bulls will be determined to produce another efficient all-round performance at home before turning their attention to the highly-anticipated late game between the Stormers and Lions.

The Stormers are currently four points ahead of the Bulls in the Africa 1 conference, and so there’s no doubt the Pretoria-based side will be hoping for a favour from their trans-Jukskei rivals.

Overall: Reds 11, Bulls 8
In Pretoria: Bulls 7, Reds 2

– The Reds have won three of their last five matches against the Bulls, although the Pretoria-based side earned victory with a 43-22 win when they last met in 2015.
– The Bulls have won seven and drawn one of their last nine matches at home in Super Rugby.
– The Reds have won just two of their last 11 matches away from home, although one of those two wins came in South Africa against the Cheetahs in round 10 of last year’s tournament.
– Samu Kerevi made 164m over the gainline in the last round, the most by any player in a Super Rugby match this season.
– SP Marais made a competition-high six offloads in round seven, while it was the second most in a single game this season.
Source: Opta

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Bulls Francois Brummer (34) Jamba Ulengo (4) Warrick Gelant (373) Jannes Kirsten (55)
Reds Jake McIntyre (54) Jake McIntyre, Nick Frisby, Samu Kerevi (2) Samu Kerevi (375) Jake Schatz (56)

Bulls – 15 SP Marais, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboko, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Deon Stegmann, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Dan Kriel.

Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ayumu Goromaru.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), TBC
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

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The Money Man's betting tips (to come)

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Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images

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