Highlanders

Highlanders v Bulls preview

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Carisbrook, Dunedin, 17.30 (05.30 GMT)

Don’t expect too much fancy stuff from either team, even if the games does feature skillful players like Nick Evans and Bryan Habana.

This is a game between two teams known for their liking to a physical confrontation. This one could be brutal.

The Highlanders have not exactly been the most consistent team, with three wins from six starts. But they have won both their games at Carisbrook this year and the Bulls have also never beaten the Highlanders at home – in Dunedin or Invercargill.

What the Highlanders have done is ensure that they stay within striking distance of the teams in the play-off spots – just two points behind the Bulls in fourth place.

And they will have in reserve – on their replacement bench – two of the most experienced forwards in world rugby, All Blacks Anton Oliver and Carl Hayman.

As for the Bulls, it is simply a case of which team will turn up at the House of Pain – the clinical, brutal outfit that tackled the Brumbies and Waratahs into submission; or the bumbling outfit which submitted so meekly against the Crusaders last week.

With Victor Matfield back in the second row and captaining the team they are likely to be a lot more effective. Not that Fourie du Preez was (or is) a bad captain. But somehow Matfield just seems to garner more respect.

They were always due for a slump on tour and we all know they are a far better outfit than that which was on display last week.

The battle up front will be intriguing and whomever wins at the set piece showdown will most likely also win on the scoreboard.

This game is a game that could easily define the remainder of the season for both teams.

The Highlanders, who are coming off the bye and have a stretch of four home games, need the win to stay in the race for play-off places. The Bulls, in their fourth game of a gruelling five-match Australasian tour, needs the win to ensure their trip doesn’t turn into a nightmare … something that could derail their entire campaign.

Prediction: It won’t be pretty. There is far too much riding on this match. It is the win that counts. We feel the Bulls will continue rewriting history – adding their first ever away win against the Highlanders to the first ever back-to-back victories in Australia. But it will be close. The Bulls to win by 10 points or less.

Teams:

Highlanders: 15 Glen Horton, 14 Lucky Mulipola, 13 Matthew Saunders, 12 Aaron Bancroft , 11 Viliame Waqaseduadua, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ezra Taylor, 7 Josh Blackie (c), 6 Craig Newby, 5 James Ryan, 4 Hoani MacDonald, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason MacDonald, 1 Clarke Dermody.
Replacements: 16 Anton Oliver, 17 Carl Hayman, 18 Kane Thompson, 19 Alando Soakai, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Callum Bruce, 22 James Wilson

Bulls: 15 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Frikkie Welsh, 12 Wayne Julies, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Anton Leonard, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Engels, 17 Danie Thiart, 18 Pedrie Wannenburg, 19 Derick Ku’n, 20 Heinie Adams, 21 Morn’ Steyn, 22 Marius Delport.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch judges: James Scholtens (Australia) Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)
Television match official: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Assessor: Kim Eichmann (New Zealand), Dennis Immelman (South Africa)

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