• Preview: Bulls vs Blues

    The Vodacom Bulls will be desperate to build some momentum when they host the Blues at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

    Even though they bounced back from consecutive defeats with a win over the Lions last week, the men from Pretoria will be the first to admit that they have yet to hit their straps as their conversion rate when they have built pressure, has left much to desire.

    In contrast, a far more confident Blues unit will start their two-week tour of South Africa on the back of an empathic win over the Crusaders where the influence of their most experienced forwards complemented the flair and enterprising play John Kirwan's younger charges bring to the game.

    Kirwan would have told his men that the first step towards victory over the Bulls is to dominate up front and this is where All Blacks Kevin Mealamu and Tony Woodcock have a huge role to play.

    Mealamu and Woodcock will enjoy their first starts of the season at a venue where winning the collisions represents the best way to win the match.

    While struggling to get over the tryline, the Bulls have been one of the most impressive sides at set-phase play where the influence of Victor Matfield is becoming more evident as weeks go by.

    Their work at scrum-time, in particular, has impressed as they are conceding fewer penalties in this facet of play while it appears the team has done away with the negative approach they used to have at defensive scrums. Whether they will be as successful against an all-All Blacks front row remains to be seen.

    The Bulls will, however, take some comfort in the fact that with the inclusion of fetcher Deon Stegmann, their ability to create turnovers should drastically improve.

    Stegmann was the missing link in the team's first three outings and has a huge role to play against Blues skipper Luke Braid, who made some of the best loosies in the game look rather ordinary last week.

    As for the respective backlines, the Bulls would be wise to keep it among the forwards for sustained periods as the strike runners in the Blues backline are known to cause havoc.

    When considering their kick-and-charge strategy, the onus will be on flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter to execute with precision as a poorly-placed kick will not go unpunished by Frank Halai and company.

    Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe (c), 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
    Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Morné Mellett , 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.

    Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid (c), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
    Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Brendon O'Connor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Chris Noakes, 23 Pita Ahki.

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    Photo: Sandra Mu/Getty Images

    Post by

    Simon Borchardt