Expect Jan Serfontein to play a key part in the Bulls' quest for a bonus-point win against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
Serfontein was in top form last week, with his elusive running troubling the Brumbies' defence. The midfielder scored his side's first try and then sent Jono Ross away for their second with an excellent offload. With Jean de Villiers injured and Frans Steyn not fit enough for Test rugby, in Heyneke Meyer's view, Serfontein is expected to wear the Bok No 12 jersey against the World XV, Wales and Scotland in June.
The Bulls' 44-23 bonus-point win against the Brumbies kept their play-off hopes alive, and while they are ninth on the combined log, they have only three fewer log points than the fifth-placed Hurricanes, who have also played 13 games. The Bulls, though, still have to win their last three matches to get into the top six, and another bonus-point win would give them a big boost before Super Rugby takes a break. Serfontein's attacking ability can help them achieve that against a Lions team that has lost its last seven matches and plummeted to 14th on the combined log.
The Bulls have opted to rest Victor Matfield for this match, with Grant Hattingh starting at No 5 lock. Other changes to their pack see Marcel van der Merwe at tighthead prop and Jacques Engelbrecht at No 8. The Lions, meanwhile, have made six changes, with Courtnall Skosan (right wing), Chrysander Botha (left wing) and Stokkies Hanekom (outside centre) coming into the backline and Schalk van der Merwe, Robbie Coetzee and Julian Redelinghuys into the front row.
Interestingly, the Bulls have scored the fewest number of tries (two) in the opening quarter of games this season, while half of the Lions’ 18 tries have come after the hour-mark. Based on that, the first half should be tight with the Bulls taking control in the second.
The last time the teams met at Ellis Park, in April 2012, the Bulls scored five tries to win 32-18.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Lions 5, Bulls 14, Draw 1
In Johannesburg: Lions 2, Bulls 6, Draw 1
* Includes Northern Transvaal, Transvaal and Cats
SERFONTEIN'S STATS THAT MATTER
1,000 – The number of minutes he's played in Super Rugby this season (Rank 14)
105 – The number of tackles he's made (Rank 19)
17 – The number of defenders he's beaten (Rank 40)
Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App
Lions – 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Rudi Mathee, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Deon van Rensburg.
Bulls – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe (c), 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Wimpie van der Walt, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Louis Fouché, 23 William Small-Smith.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images