Kriel needs to fire for Bulls

Jesse Kriel will have a point to prove when the Bulls take on the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Kriel has endured an up-and-down year, and after featuring as a replacement in the Boks’ first Test against Ireland, he then fell out of the match 23 for the final two encounters.

Considering the fact Kriel started 10 Tests for the Boks last year, there’s no doubt he’ll want to send out a reminder to Allister Coetzee about his prodigious abilities, particularly with just three rounds remaining in the conference stage of Super Rugby.

In this regard, the Bulls certainly need their big players such as Kriel to make their mark during the business end of the competition.

The Bulls trail the Stormers by four points in the Africa 1 conference, while the Sharks currently occupy the wildcard-qualifying berth due to the fact that they have a three-point advantage over the Pretoria-based side.

Although the Bulls should back themselves to finish the season with wins over the Sunwolves and Cheetahs, they’ll also know that the Jaguares will be challenging opponents on their home turf.

The three defeats the Jaguares have suffered in Buenos Aires have all been by five points or less, while it was the venue of their biggest win of the season when they thumped the Kings 73-27.

Despite the fact that the Bulls no longer have destiny in their own hands, they’ll be fully aware that a win over the Jaguares will keep them in the hunt for the playoffs, particularly if other results go their way.

The Bulls head into this match with a number of players missing due to injury, while captain Adriaan Strauss has been rested after his exploits with the Boks.

Coach Nollis Marais has said they are determined to stick to their plans to embrace a more attacking brand of rugby, but this is a clash that one can expect to be extremely closely fought, particularly if the wet weather persists in Buenos Aires.

The Bulls lost three out of their last four games before the June break, and they now desperately need a victory to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive.

This is the teams' first meeting.

– The Bulls are the only South African team that the Jaguares are yet to play against, although it’s against South African teams that the Argentinian side has earned both of its Super Rugby wins.
– The Jaguares have won only one of four Super Rugby games on home soil, although they’ve never lost such a game by more than five points.
– The Bulls have won only two of their last 15 games outside South Africa, but nine of those 13 losses were by seven points or fewer.
– The Bulls have missed just 14.8 tackles per game this season, the fewest of any team, and boast the best tackle success rate (88%) in Super Rugby this season.
– Nicolás Sánchez has scored 45.4% of the Jaguares’ points in their last four fixtures, including 17 points in each of his last two appearances.
Source: Opta

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Jaguares Nicolás Sánchez (106) Martín Landajo (6) Facunda Isa (436) Matías Alemanno (75)
Bulls Francois Brummer (85) Adriaan Strauss (5) SP Marais (418) Lappies Labuschagne (121)

Jaguares – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Matías Orlando, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.

Bulls – 15 SP Marais, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Renaldo Bothma, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Dries Swanepoel.

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Federico Ansiemi (Argentina), Juan Sylvestre (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)

SA Rugby magazine team's SuperBru picks

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Rebels vs Stormers

Cheetahs vs Force

Kings vs Highlanders

Chiefs vs Crusaders

Hurricanes vs Blues

Brumbies vs Reds

Sunwolves vs Waratahs

Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis