Pretoria’s Bulls are sitting in third place in the Africa 1 Conference which is directly above the Sunwolves.
Neither team have won a match yet this season and the Bulls are ahead of their Japanese opponents on points difference.
The Bulls have played the Sunwolves twice so far in Super Rugby and have won both matches. On their last visit to Loftus Versfeld, the Sunwolves were beaten by a 47 point margin.
Bulls coach Nollis Marais will be hoping for an all-round display from his chargers and welcomes back Lood de Jager, Jan Serfontein and Adriaan Strauss, all included in the squad.
The visitors have named a new centre pairing of Jamie-Jerry Taulagi and Timothy Lafaele. The Sunwolves put in a spirited display last week against the Cheetahs but, again, the final 20 minutes could prove vital above sea level.
Kenki Fukuoka will be the man to watch in the Japanese ranks, scoring a double last weekend, he, along with fullback Shota Emi and wing partner Takaaki Nakazuru, are dangerous runners from deep and with ball in hand.
The teams are out on the feed.
BEEP! Jamie Nutbrown begins the game.
1.00: The Sunwolves have started in similar vein to last weekend in Bloemfontein, keeping the ball and going through the phases.
2.oo: PENALTY! Hayden Cripps will take a shot at goal.
3.00: It’s good. The visitors are on the board.
5.00: The tempo is high in the opening exchanges, Mr Nutbrown is out of breath in the highveld.
6.00: Bulls go wide from a scrum, Handré Pollard sends Burger Odendaal into a gap, the inside centre makes the break but, the move breaks down when his centre partner Jan Serfontein knocks on.
8.00: Bulls awarded a penalty and kick into the 22 for a lineout drive.
9.00: PENALTY! Odendaal took a crash ball but the Sunwolves are penalised again. Pollard kicks for another five-metre lineout.
11.00: Bulls drive. The maul is stopped but the hosts continue to drive. Ref calls for the Bulls to use it and they don’t. Great defence. Scrum to the visitors.
12.00: TRY! disaster by the Sunwolves forwards. the ball is lost, collected by the Bulls and Serfontein cuts back, beating two defenders after showing a dummy.
13.00: Pollard adds the conversion from under the posts.
15.00: The Sunwolves are struggling to hold onto the ball and give up possession inside the opposition’s half.
16.00: Scrum to the Bulls.
17.00: The scrum cancelled out and goes to ground. Pollard takes a crash ball and is hit hard. The Bulls have another scrum after the visitors lose the ball.
18.00: Bulls turnover the ball and Cripps is pinged for holding. Pollard kicks to touch. The buggy with the kicking tee was already on the field but the flyhalf says ‘no’.
19.00: The Bulls are penalised at the maul for offside. Sunwolves release the pressure.
20.00: Another knock on from the lineout by the visitors. Scrum Bulls. The ball must be slippery in the late summer evening under lights.
21.00: Serfontein puts a little grubber in behind the rush defence but it goes into touch. From the set piece the Sunwolves kick and the Bulls attack.
22.00: PENALTY! Timothy Lafaele is penalised for offsides and Pollard opts for a kick at goal this time. The players can catch their breaths.
23.00: It’s good from the Bok 10. Blue Bulls lead by seven inside the second quarter.
24.00: RAZZLE DAZZLE! Lodewyk de Jager runs at his man and offloads a wonderful ball out the back door to Trevor Nyakane. The prop forward collects and beats a defender but the ball is lost. Great interplay from the big men.
26.00: PENALTY! Sunwolves win a scrum penalty and kick to touch. It was a powerful scrum, shoving the Bulls backwards.
27.00: Keisuke Uchida knocks on at the ruck but, the referee deems De Jager offside, not rolling away. Cripps will take a shot.
28.00: Cripps sends it through the posts. It must be lovely for the visiting kickers at altitude; the ball flies through the thin air.
29.00: PENALTY! Pollard kicks to touch. so much for collecting points.
30.00: TRY! The Bulls set up a driving maul and power the opposition forwards backwards. It was unstoppable. Pierre Schoeman is the man who dots down.
31.00: Pollard adds the two.
33.00: PENALTY! The Sunwolves with a clever restart, win a penalty. Cripps makes no mistake.
35.00: PENALTY! A high tackle on Pollard, who opts for the kicking tee.
36.00: It’s pulled to the left from right in front. Very rare miss from the 23-year-old.
37.00: Travis Ismaiel knocks on challenging for a high ball. Scrum visitors inside their half with halftime in sight.
39.00: The Sunwolves attack and catch the Bulls unaware, eventually, the ball is lost and the home team clear.
40.00: TRY! WOW! It’s that man Kenki Fukuoka again. The winger takes the ball from Shota Emi, beats two defenders with a wonderful swerve of the hips and runs in untouched.
First, Piet van Zyl and then he outpaces the cover D of Warrick Gelant. The offload and step from the fullback was sensational.
It all started when Jason Jenkins won the Bulls a penalty. Pollard missed his touch, allowing the visitors to counter-attack on the stroke of halftime.
The Sunwolves are dangerous with counter-attacks from deep. Fukuoka scored twice from such plays last weekend against the Cheetahs. The Bulls will be angry at not executing the basics and switching off.
Cripps could not make it a one-point game. However, the Japan outfit will not mind as they head to the shed with some momentum.
The halftime score is Bulls 17 Sunwolves 14
Bulls coach Nollis Marais gave a passionate talk, hoping for a better second half.
1.00: BEEP! Bulls kick-off and immediately give away a silly penalty. Jamie Nutbrown wants to view the replay on the big screen. Renaldo Bothma is in trouble. It looks a high hit around the head.
1.00: Ed Quirk spun out of Piet van Zyl’s tackle but was hit with a reckless challenge around the chin.
RED CARD! Oh no! Renaldo Bothma is off
42.00: The Bulls will play the entire second half with 14 men.
45.00: The Bulls attack with a lineout from five metres out after a break, deep inside their half.
46.00: TRY! Jason Jenkins barges over from close range. The big man ghosts through Willie Britz and slips a weak tackle by Ed Quirk. Where was the pillar D?
47.00: Pollard adds the two. That is some reply by the Bulls.
48.00: On comes ex-Springbok skipper Adriaan Strauss. Sunwolves scrum.
50.00: Bulls have a scrum on their 22. The ref resets. The home team will need to work the clock if they are to have a chance of staying in the match.
52.00: Some aerial ping-pong is going on until the referee blows for offside against the Sunwolves. Pollard will take the shot at goal. Would he have done if the Bulls were not a man down?
53.00: MISS! That’s the second time he’s missed from in front. And he’s off, subbed for Tian Schoeman. Interesting call by Marais.
55.oo: Shota Emi has had a blinder; great with ball in hand, safe under the high ball and has gas to burn.
56.00: Cripps has gone off too. Not often the two flyhalfs are subbed before the hour, if at all.
57.00: Strauss sends a floated ball to Odendaal who kicks ahead. Emi, however, dots down for a 22.
58.00: PENALTY! Heiichiro Ito is penalised for scrumming in on the angle. Schoeman is lining up a shot at goal.
59.00: It’s good.
60.00: The Bulls get a lucky scrum in good field position after another daft handling mistake. the Sunwolves went the third quarter with an extra-man but conceded 10 points.
61.00: TRY! Number two for Jenkins…hold on. No try, he’s dropped it over the try line. Oh my, oh my.
63.00: Scrum Sunwolves. That mistake could prove costly.
65.00: TRY! Serfontein. The ref has called the TMO for a forward pass from Pierre Schoeman. It’s flat. The Bok centre ran a wonderful angle off the lineout. Great line.
66.00: Schoeman from the corner, extends the lead.
69.00: An attacking lineout results in a free kick for the Bulls closing the gap. They opt to scrum with the extra man.
71.00: TRY! The skipper scores after some sustained pressure. Quick ball and good passing caught the Bulls napping. Too little too late one feels. the conversion is good.
75.00: Sunwolves go to a short lineout. time is running out.
79.00: The Sunwolves score at the death. If they get the conversion they claim a losing bonus point. It’s Liaki Moli with the try. The kick is missed.
Hold on! Stuart Berry sees something; a lost ball in the act of scoring. TMO confirms, no try.
What an end to the game. Had Moli not knocked on, the missed conversion would have to have been retaken. In the end the right call was made and the Bulls breathe a sigh of relief.
They had to dig deep for that win.
The final score is Bulls 34 (17) Sunwolves 21 (14)
Tries – Serfontein (2), Schoeman, Jenkins
Pen – Pollard (2), Schoeman (2)
Con – Pollard (2)
Cards – Red (Bothma, 41st minute)
Tries – Fukuoka, Quirk
Pen – Cripps (3), Ogura
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: Stuart Berry
TMO: Willie Vos
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Handré Pollard (captain), 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jesse Kriel.
15 Shota Emi, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Cripps, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Shumei Matsuhashi, 6 Ed Quirk (captain), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Yasuo Yamaji, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Koki Yamamoto.
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Jumpei Ogura, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka.