In their four-try demolition of the Crusaders last week the Blues showed just how dangerous they can be.However, the weather predictions suggest conditions may not favour their free-running game – mostly cloudy, with a couple of showers and a thunderstorm late in the afternoon.
The Bulls’ set pieces have been solid – a 92 percent success rate at scrum time and 90 percent in the line-outs.In stark contrast, the Blues have not started the season well in the set pieces – 57 percent in the scrums and 78 percent in line-outs. However, the men from Pretoria have scored only two tries in three matches and the Blues seven in two.
“Defence will definitely be very important,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke told this website in an interview.
He pointed out that against both the Highlanders in Round Two (even though they lost after leaving the charge a bit late) and the Crusaders last week the Blues came back strongly after trailing by some margin early in the game. “They may have left it a little late in that game against the Highlanders, but against a quality team like the Crusaders they showed just how dangerous they can be in broken play,” Ludeke said.
“We have to control possession, tactically we have to be very good – play in the right areas and ensure we have good defensive lines.” The Bulls mentor spoke of requiring “an enormous team effort”.
Blues coach John Kirwan said that after playing two games against New Zealand opposition this season, the Bulls would pose a completely different challenge and that his team needed to brace themselves for a bruising encounter. “The difference when you play in South Africa is the brutality of the contact,” Kirwan said.
“They’re big men, they drive sometimes in twos, when they’ve got the ball they love the physicality of the rucks so they’ll fly into them and you just need to be ready for that. “They play a very simple game that they know very well – lots of mauling, lots of high kicks and lots of pressure underneath that so we just need to be ready and make sure we can combat that.
“I think the game plan and the way we play will challenge them, we just need to be up for the physical battle.”
2013: Bulls won 28-21, Auckland
2012: Blues won 29-23, Pretoria
2010: Blues won 32-17, Auckland
2009: Bulls won 59-26, Pretoria
2008: Blues won 23-21, Auckland
2007: Bulls won 40-19, Pretoria
Bulls: 15 Jurgen 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 (captain), 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 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 (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 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.
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)