Super 14 Rugby

Bulls can do Stormers a favour


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In the cut-throat business that is Super 14 rugby, the Bulls have to beat the Western Force in Perth in their Super 14 match on Friday to save face and retain a glimmer of hope of successfully defending their title – and in so doing, they will also help the Stormers in their charge for the semifinals.

The Bulls, languishing in 11th position on the log with 9 points, have not won since they beat the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on March 7. Last Saturday they came very close against the Blues in Auckland.

If they want to win their fourth and last match on their Australasia tour it must be against the Force who did well in New Zealand only to falter at home in Perth.

A Bulls victory will mean that the Stormers will have a precious match in hand while being only one or even no points behind the Force.

The Bulls last weekend showed the sort of grit and determination that one expects from a champion side.

They do have two refereeing decisions (at least) they can blame for their defeat, but must also admit to their own shortcomings – especially insofar as their finishing and option taking are concerned.

A problem for coach Frans Ludeke is undoubtedly the poor scrumming of the Bulls. They have been on the back foot in this facet in their last two matches, with the same scrummaging coach and the same front row that won them the title last year.

Flankers Wikus van Heerden and Pedrie Wannenburg simply have to win more possession to let their backs – and also that man Pierre Spies – have free reign.

In short, the tight five must rectify their scrummaging and lineout shortcomings or the team will face more disappointment.

* Friday night’s clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin is also crunch match for the Lions, who are 12th on the log.

They have at times played an exciting brand or rugby, and have come very close to more than just their one win on a number of occasions.

However, it’s also fact that the Lions largely have themselves to blame for their defeats because of poor finishing or wrong options.

The House of Pain is never an easy venue, and won’t be on Friday night (New Zealand time) either with cold weather gripping the North Island.

The Lions will again – because that is their style – run whenever they can. Injured captain Ernst Joubert, who stayed behind in South Africa, was confident after the Lions’ close call against the Reds that they are getting closer to a breakthrough.

If they don’t win, an average season will become a nightmare and could dent the side’s confidence in the Currie Cup as well.

* From a South African point of view, a draw between the Brumbies and Chiefs in Canberra would be the ideal result with neither getting match points to draw clear.

Both these teams are still in with a shout as the competition enters its last rounds. The Brumbies have blown hot and cold all season, but will be a different side with captain Stirling Mortlock back in action after his operation.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, have won their last couple of matches and realise that an away win will be worth gold in the run-up to the play-offs.

They have the same side that beat the Highlanders despite a number of injuries, and their confidence will be at a high for Friday’s away match.

Friday matches (SA times, home teams first):

Highlanders v Lions, 8.35am;
Brumbies v Chiefs, 11.40am;
Western Force v Bulls, 1.45pm.

Sapa –

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