Bulls

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Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 19.05 (17.05 GMT)

The Bulls have employed a simple, but very effective, game plan in the last few weeks. They dominate the opposition up front and apply pressure from the outset. It has allowed them to cut loose and score 12 tries in their last two games.

Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer spoke of “tweaking” his team’s tactics this week and suggested they will need to play “total” rugby to beat the Blues.

According to Meyer the Bulls will only beat the “brilliant” Blues by playing total rugby.

“We can not afford to put safety first. We will have to play positive rugby,” said Meyer.

However, it is doubtful if the change in approach will be as dramatic as it sounds. It is doubtful the Bulls will be throwing the ball around willy-nilly.

“Our tactics will be tweaked and we tweak it from game to game, depending on the opposition. But there won’t be any radical changes,” Meyer added.

The “total” rugby he talks of will be similar in style to the “slow poison” approach they used in the last two weeks against the Stormers (a 49-12 win) and the Lions (31-7 victory).

In both games the opposition were still in the game at half-time, but the choking effect of the Bulls game saw them fall by the wayside after the break and allowed the men from Pretoria to score enough tries to secure back-to-back bonus-point victories.

Against the Blues it will certainly require more patience than what was needed against the likes of the erratic Stormers and the lesser Lions.

It is simply because the Blues are a far better balanced team.

Yes, they did struggle when placed under pressure – as the Sharks and Stormers did – and that is something Meyer and his tactical planners would have taken note of.

But the Blues are also very dangerous all over the park.

“One may say of some of the other teams that their forwards are not as good as their backs, but you can’t say that of the Blues,” Meyer said.

“They are equally formidable up front and at the back. This limits, even more, the room their opponents have to make mistakes.”

Prediction: This could be the game of the weekend and it could be brutal. Both teams know victory is non negotiable if they are to ensure they keep their play-off destinies in their own hands. If recent form is anything to go by, the Bulls should be favoured. But the Blues can’t be dismissed that easily. It should be close, but the Bulls could sneak it. 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, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Jaco Engels, 17 Danie Thiart, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Derick Ku’n, 20 Heinie Adams, 21 Morn’ Steyn, 22 Jaco van der Westhuyzen

Blues: 15 George Pisi, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 Steve Devine, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Angus Macdonald, 5 Troy Flavell (c), 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Derren Whitcombe, 17 Nick White, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Justin Collins, 20 Moa Taniela, 21 David Holwell, 22 Anthony Tuitavake.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch judges: Bradley Wahl (Australia), Linston Manuels (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)
Assessor: Paul Ramsay

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