The Blue Bulls will be outright favourites when they host the lowly Leopards in a Currie Cup Round Five at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, but the men from Pretoria are taking no chances.
Jan de Koning – Rugby365
They are chasing a full-house five points, as they look to continue their revival – following a couple of early season hiccups.
However, it will be a tougher task than most think – despite their recent dominance over the Leopards and the fact that the visitors have yet to win a game this season.
The defending champion Bulls scored 103 point against their Potchefstroom opponents during their last two games played in Pretoria. Equally impressive is the 105 points they amassed against the Leopards last year, for an average winning margin of 52-17.
Despite the seemingly superiority of the Bulls, Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe has said the home team will need to bring their A-Game to Loftus.
“Any team that comes to Loftus come here to win,” Van der Merwe told rugby365.com, when asked about the struggling Leopards outfit.
He said all teams target Loftus as a place to raise the bar and upset the home side.
“We never have any easy games at Loftus,” Van der Merwe said, adding: “Teams tend to produce their best games at Loftus and we will have to bring our A-game.”
He said there is also the bigger picture, as the Bulls must continue to build momentum and improve with a view to the rest of the Currie Cup.
“We need to get our combinations sorted and we must be 100 percent effective in everything we do on Friday,” the Bok lock said.
Van der Merwe played against the Leopards in 2009 and despite the lopsided scorelines, felt they were far better than the Bulls’ winning margins suggest.
“They are very physical,” he told rugby365.com, adding: “It is one of the more physical games you will play in the Currie Cup.
“That is why it is important that we don’t become disjointed and stick to our structures and game, no matter who the opposition is.”
2005: Blue Bulls won 69-24, Pretoria
2005: Blue Bulls won 61-10, Phokeng
2009: Blue Bulls won 44-11, Pretoria
2009: Blue Bulls won 61-24, Phokeng
rugby365.com Prediction: The Leopards, against Griquas last week, looked a much-improved team compared to the earlier rounds. However, they are away from home and the Bulls looked a changed side when they overpowered the Lions in the second half last week. There may well be some early resistance and the Blue Bulls like to build slowly in the first half – which may mean the Leopards could stay in touch till at least the half-time break. But there were some ominous signs from the defending champions last week and they should be able to race clear after the break. The Blue Bulls to win by at least 20 points.
Bulls: 15 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Hayden Groepes, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Derick Kuün (captain), 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Bees Roux, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Jaco Engels.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Fudge Mabeta, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Dustin Jinka, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Stephan Dippenaar.
Leopards: 15 Danie Dames, 14 Deon Scholtz, 13 Jovan Bowles, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Dumisane Matyeshana, 10 Niell Jacobs, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Riaan Swanepoel/RW Kember, 7 Willem Koch (captain), 6 Danie Crous, 5 Edrich Linde, 4 Anthonie Gronum, 3 Barend van der Walt, 2 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 1 Divan Kotze.
Replacements: 16 Gavin Williamson, 17 Aranos Coetzee, 18 Brad Mockford, 19 Swanepoel/Kember, 20 Jean Tiedt, 21 Clayton Durand, 22 Jan van Zyl.
Date: Friday, August 6
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Matt Kemp, Johan Greeff
TMO: Johann Meuwesen