Bulls v Western Force preview



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Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 20.35 (18.35 GMT)

Bulls coach Heyneke often talks up the opposition, but it was with more than just the usual courtesy that he spoke of the Western Force this week. As he rattle off the names of their Wallaby stars, you soon realised it is probably just a matter of time before they shake of their “underdog” status.

Yes, you would still rate them below the Bulls, mainly because they beat a very ordinary Stormers team last week and they themselves looked very poor in going down to the Highlanders in Week One.

But, as Meyer rightfully pointed out, a team that has players like veteran Wallaby hooker Brendan Cannon, star Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe, the million dollar man himself Matt Giteau, Matt Henjak and Scott Staniforth can never be written off.

Add to this names like Drew Mitchell, Rugby League convert Ryan Cross, Junior Pelesasa and Cameron Shepherd, and it is obvious the potential the team has.

Meyer knows that and he is preparing for a huge onslaught.

He makes no secret of the fact that he feels the Force are ready to take a big scalp. He doesn’t want the Bulls to be that scalp.

The Force, against the Stormers last week, showed great maturity in sticking to the game plan and play patient pressure rugby.

However, coach John Mitchell admits the team will need to improve significantly if it is going to match it with the Bulls on their home turf.

It is in the physical stakes – the Stormers’ tight five were very poor – where the Force will be tested this week. If there is one certainty from this game, it is that the Bulls’ gargantuan pack will be out to leave their mark on the Force forwards.

The Bulls bounced back into Super 14 contention with a solid 24-20 with over the Cheetahs last weekend after starting the competition with a lacklustre 17-3 loss to the Sharks.

In that game the Bulls forwards started to click in the scrums, line-outs and general play which signals danger for the visitors.

Mitchell readily acknowledges the fact that the Bulls are a formidable force, particularly in Pretoria, with one of the biggest packs in the game and one of the best line-out jumpers in Victor Matfield.

“But there lies our opportunity, and we intend to give it a good crack,” Mitchell said.

The key for the Bulls, no doubt, is their captain, Matfield. He has led from the front to pull his forwards back into line, while behind the pack Fourie Du Preez has been in sparkling form on attack and defence.

The Force will hope wing Cameron Shepherd remains on target with his goal kicking, after slotting over seven from eight attempts in the first two games.

Scrum-half Matt Henjak is another player who has looked invigorated by the arrival of Matt Giteau.

Prediction: You would be a fool not to back the Bulls in public, but privately a few punters could be brave enough to have a flutter on the Force. It is not a bad call. We think the Bulls will bully the visitors. The Bulls by more than 10 points.


Bulls: 15 Johan Roets, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Marius Delport, 10 Morn’ Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Anton Leonard, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Danie Thiart, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Derick Ku’n, 17 Wessel Roux, 18 Francois van Schouwenburg, 19 Hilton Lobberts, 20 Heinie Adams, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Jaco van der Westhuyzen

Western Force: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Junior Pelesasa, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Matt Henjak, 8 Richard Brown, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 David Pusey, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Rudi Vedelago, 3 Troy Takiari, 2 Brendan Cannon, 1 Gareth Hardy.
Replacements: 16 Tai McIsaac, 17 Angus Scott, 18 Luke Doherty, 19 David Pocock, 20 Chris O’Young, 21 Scott Daruda, 22 Haig Sare

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Keith Brown (New Zealand), Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

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