We have three weeks left of this merry-go-round before the playoffs which means every single game from now on counts for something.
The Bulls are in New Zealand and are fighting for survival this weekend against the Blues.
Many people believe the Bulls, although lying seventh and only four points behind the Jaguares that leads the conference, will not make the playoffs.
Well they can show everybody wrong when they run out against the Blues on Friday.
It is a must win for both sides and the one loosing out here may as well be left short of getting into the playoffs.
It has been a closely contested competition this year with only the Crusaders really on a different planet than the others.
From the third placed team to team number thirteen there is only 10 log points difference.
The Bulls will be without Pollard and Vermeulen for this clash with both picking up injuries in the last couple of weeks.
The Bulls coach Pote Human has more or less kept the same team that lost against the Brumbies last week.
In the backs Van Zyl and Libbok will control things at nine and ten with Kotze and Odendaal in the midfield.
Paul Schoeman comes in for Vermeulen at eight and Liebenberg and Van Staden will complete the loose trio.
The Blues also made as less changes to their side as possible. He kept his backline unchanged again for this weekend clash.
The only change in the Blues side sees James Parsons returning from injury to take the number two jumper for this match.
There are a few danger players in this Blues side and the Bulls will have to be better on defence than last week against the Brumbies.
Ma’a Nonu still is a dangerous player and he normally spark the Blues on attack.
Although they lost against the Crusaders, the Blues side showed massive guts in keeping the end score as low as they did.
They have a great set piece this year as we have said many times and I am actually looking forward to the battle.
As a deadly counter attacking side the Bulls will have to be careful not to give possession away. It sometimes feel South African sides revert to kicking down field too much in the hope the other side makes a mistake.
As they saying goes, a kick as good as the chase and we have not seen much of that lately.
Possession and keeping ball will be key and the Bulls will have to step up specially now that they are without the experience of Pollard and Vermeulen.
It will be a big night for Jason Jenkins as well playing in his 50th Super Rugby match.
Some Interesting Facts (OPTA)
- The Blues have won four of their last six Super Rugby games against the Bulls (L2), the two losses sandwiched in between back-to-back victories.
- The Blues have won 11 of their 12 home games against the Bulls in Super Rugby history (L1), over half of those wins (7) have seen a final margin of 13+.
- The Blues have won five of their last six Super Rugby games on home turf, including a 23-8 win over the Chiefs in their last home fixture.
- The Blues have trailed by a double-digit margin in four of their last five Super Rugby games against South African opposition, only once managing to bounce back for a win in those games (L3).
- Each of the Bulls’ last 10 Super Rugby games has seen the result alternate between wins and losses (W5, L5), with the Pretorian side coming into this fixture on the back of a 22-10 defeat to the Brumbies.
- The Bulls have won only one of their last 14 Super Rugby games played outside South Africa; a 32-17 win over the Rebels this season their only triumph in that span.
- The Blues boast the best scrum success rate (97%) of any team this Super Rugby season and have also lost a league-low total of three scrums.
- The Bulls have kicked a league-high 42 penalty goals in Super Rugby 2019 and are one of only two teams (Lions) to have slotted a successful drop goal.
- Rieko Ioane (Blues) has made 25 clean breaks thus far in Super Rugby 2019, the joint-most of any player alongside the Crusaders’ Sevu Reece.
- The Bulls’ Duane Vermeulen has won 20 turnovers thus far in Super Rugby 2019, more than any other player in the competition and eight more than Blues’ best Dalton Papali’i.
Prediction: Nothing has shown that the Bulls can surprise us, Blues by 13 points
Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (co-captain), 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (co-captain), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons Leni Apisai, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Lua Li, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Tanielu Tele’a
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Spekman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1mLizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Andre Warner, 22 JT Jackson, 23 Divan Rossouw