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Bulls v Cheetahs preview

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Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 17.00 (15.00 GMT)


There has been the odd reference to a Currie Cup Final rematch – since these two teams, even in their Super 14 guises, are in reality the teams that played to a pulsating draw.


While it is almost four months on, not much has changed in the build-up to a match between the men from Pretoria and Bloemfontein.


They are the country’s two most structured teams, they know exactly what to expect of each other and they hardly try to disguise their tactics.


Not surprising then this week that Bulls captain Victor Matfield did not buy into the suggestion that Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus will actually stick to the team that he released to the media.


Matfield expects Erasmus to try and load his forward pack in order to counter the strength of the Bulls.


“No matter what it says on their team sheet, we know they will have two props and a hooker on the bench. This corresponds with their belief that the route to victory against the Bulls goes through our pack,” Matfield said.


“We won’t be caught off guard if they change their team.


“We concentrate on clinically executing our own game-plan but we are prepared for any surprise.”


While Erasmus’ selections – or at least the team sheet he released to the media – attracted lots of attention, the Bulls have some selection posers of their own.


The big issue is whether fly-half Derick Hougaard will pass a late fitness test – scheduled for some time on Friday. Last week, before the Sharks encounter, a decision on Hougaard was delayed to the Saturday and he eventually pulled out.


It had a huge impact on the Bulls, who missed his precision when it came to the execution of his tactical kicks.


While this may seem a relative minor matter for most sides, for the Bulls it is a huge factor. They rely on Hougaard to get their gargantuan pack on the front foot. Morn’ Steyn enjoys a more attacking game, an approach that often takes the ball away from the forwards.


It is something that simply does not suit the Bulls.


Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer makes no secret of the fact that it would be a setback if Hougaard can’t play. The Bulls mentor expects the game to be a very tactical encounter.


The overall picture suggest that discipline could be the key, with the Cheetahs again having opted for the educated boot of Herkie Kruger at fly-half.


Not only can penalties become valuable points – for players like Kruger and Hougaard – but yellow and red cards could easily change the course of the game, especially if it is a closely contested affair.


Prediction: This one is tough to call, but we’ll go for home ground advantage and give it to the Bulls … but only just. The Bulls by less than 10 points.


Teams:


Bulls: 15 Johan Roets, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard/Morn’ Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Anton Leonard, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg,
5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Danie Thiart, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Wessel Roux
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Adriaan Fondse, 19 Hilton Lobberts, 20 Nicholas Eyre, 21 Morn’ Steyn/Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Marius Delport


Cheetahs: 15 Tiger Mangweni, 14 Philip Burger, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Ronnie Cooke, 10 Herkie Kruger, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Kabamba Floors, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Henro Scholtz, 5 Corniel van Zyl, 4 Darren Nell, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adrian Strauss, 1 Ollie le Roux.
Replacements: 16 Richard Strauss, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Brian Vermaak, 19 Ryno van der Merwe, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Alwyn Hollenbach, 22 Eddie Fredericks


Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Touch judges: Phillip Bosch (South Africa), Pro Legoete (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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