Spies starts over

Pierre Spies will be looking to make an impression on his first Vodacom Super Rugby start in over a year against the Hurricanes at Loftus on Friday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

Spies made his long-awaited comeback from the bench against the Stormers last weekend, and his impact was a positive one. Bulls coach Frans Ludeke was forced to employ him earlier than he would've liked following the injury to Arno Botha, but luckily for the Bulls, Spies got through 49 minutes unscathed.

There was rust – which was always going to be the case after two injury-ravaged years. He fell off three tackle attempts, contributing to the Bulls' league high 26 missed tackles. The signs were positive, though, even off the back of a receding scrum.

Duane Vermeulen's performance highlighted how far Spies has to go if he is to challenge again for the Springbok No 8 jersey that was in his sole possession for several seasons. He'll need to up his notoriously lax work rate if he is to truly compete again.

The Hurricanes will provide a good challenge at Loftus this weekend. They were busy at the breakdown area against the Lions, as they soaked up the pressure before countering with lethal precision. The slew of All Blacks in their backline were hardly used, and yet they still came away with a comfortable 22-8 victory.

In contrast, the Bulls were underwhelming against the Stormers. While their lineout was customarily impeccable – they won all nine of their lineouts – their scrums were shambolic. Trevor Nyakane has had a week to acclimatise himself at tighthead prop, while Morné Mellet comes in at loosehead. They'll need to be better.

The only other change comes in the backline, where Jesse Kriel is favoured over Jürgen Visser at fullback. Piet van Zyl will continue at scrumhalf, with Bok scrumhalf Francois Hougaard starting on the wing.

The Hurricanes have been boosted by the return of Ma'a Nonu to their All Blacks-laden backline. The other changes come in the pack, where Ardie Savea drops to the bench after an immense performance against the Lions and Reggie Goodes comes in at loosehead, with Ben Franks shifting to tighthead.

The manner of the Canes victory over the Lions would've sapped their energy reserves. The second match on tour is always going to be that little bit tougher, and if the Bulls can create a platform up front, Spies can make an impact.

It's his work when the Bulls don't have the ball that will come under scrutiny, as it has always done. If Spies is honestly set on reclaiming the Bok No 8 jersey, he needs to improve his overall game, starting with a strong all-round performance against the Hurricanes on Friday.

Overall: Bulls 9, Hurricanes 9
In Pretoria: Bulls 5, Hurricanes 4

– The Bulls have won four of the last five clashes between the sides, limiting the Canes to fewer than 20 points in each of those matches.
– The Bulls won all nine of their lineouts last weekend, but had the lowest tackling success (80%) having missed 26 of 129 attempted hits.
– The Canes won five of seven lineout throws, a weekend low success rate of 71%.
– The Canes managed the most turnovers won (10) last weekend and conceded fewer turnovers (seven) than any other side.
– The Canes were the only side to manage less than 10 minutes in possession of the ball last week (nine minutes, 23 seconds).

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Bulls Handré Pollard (12) Deon Stegmann (1) Francois Hougaard (33) Lappies Labuschagne (22)
Hurricanes Beauden Barrett (12) TJ Perenara & Matt Proctor (1) TJ Perenara (37) Ardie Savea (12)

Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Handrè Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Subs: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 Jürgen Visser.

Hurricanes – 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dan Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Chris Eves, 19 Ardie Savea, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 James Marshall, 23 Matt Proctor.

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