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Wounded Bulls have the edge

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There will be only pride at stake when the Bulls and the Brumbies meet in their Super 14 match at Loftus on Friday night – and the wounded Bulls will probably be hungrier than their Australian visitors.


The Brumbies’ hope to make the semi-finals was pretty much scuppered by the Stormers last weekend. Pride is not the only reason why the Bulls will run onto the field as favourites.


The Brumbies have been plagued by illness during the week and are away from home and the loss against the Stormers will take much of their motivation out of their tour.


The Bulls, defending their title, have experienced humiliation with a number of big defeats; they’re at home where their supporters expect them to provide good, winning fare; and during their last two wins they looked like a side with confidence and something like the form that took them to the title last year.


The two victories would have increased that confidence.


While the Brumbies are a side that have the ability to counter well, and have a solid pack and some exciting but relative new backs to back up the classy stalwart Stirling Mortlock, they’re undoubtedly not the quality side of yesteryear.


One of the duels to look forward to will be the battle between that king of the loose ball George Smith and young Deon Stegmann of the Bulls.


To counter the threat of Smith, speed to the loose ball by the Bulls forwards will be of paramount importance. Numbers could offset his ability to delay good ball.


It will be an interesting match, and probably one where the Bulls forwards will swing it their way while the Brumbies will be out to disrupt their set pieces.


In the other Friday match, the Hurricanes are at home to the Force. The Hurricanes are third on the log, a point ahead of the Stormers; the Force are ninth and seemingly out of contention.


The Hurricanes will be wise to take note of the Force’s results against New Zealand opposition.


They have won three out of four – including away wins over the Blues and Highlanders – with the only loss coming against the Crusaders in Perth.


There is also the fact that playmaker Matt Giteau showed his value when he returned from injury against the Chiefs last week and played a huge part in their victory.


It could be an entertaining game, with both sides keen to run the ball wide and Ma’a Nonu back to his line-breaking best.


The Force won’t just lie down, but it will come as a surprise if they pull this one off against a side that is probably more motivated because of their realistic chance of assuring a home semifinal.


This weekend’s fixtures (SA times, home teams first):


Friday:


Hurricanes v Force, 9.35am;
Bulls v Brumbies, 7.10pm.


Saturday:


Highlanders v Blues, 9.35am;
Reds v Crusaders. 11.40am;
Sharks v Cheetahs, 3pm;
Lions v Chiefs, 5.05pm;
Stormers v Waratahs, 7.10pm.


Sapa – Super14.com

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