The Vodacom Bulls have historically found the Force a tough nut to crack and history repeated itself on Saturday when despite a quick start it still took a late burst to secure a victory.
Perhaps it was the ease with which Morne Steyn ghosted through for the first try that lulled the Bulls into a false sense of security. However, still trailing by a score in the last quarter they managed to bring an urgency back into their game and they scored the vital fourth try to earn a bonus point win after the hooter. The performance may not have been up to scratch but they came away with five points from a match they could quite easily have lost.
The Blues are flying high with coach John Kirwan now pulling the strings after Pat Lam was shown the door courtesy of a terrible 2012 season. Despite being considered the underdogs at home to the Crusaders last week, they turned in an incredible performance of hard, running rugby to win by 19 points – amazingly outscoring the pre-tournament favourites by 5 tries to 0. The Bulls will need to get on top of the Blues pack early because if their electric backline get enough quality possession the likes of Olivier and Mapoe could be left chasing shadows.
However, there’s no doubt that Bulls face a rampant Blues side at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday and they will need to raise their game if they are to achieve three wins out of three. At the moment, both teams stand at two out of two. Last year the Blues rocked the Bulls early in the season by winning 29-23 in Pretoria. In Auckland the matches between the sides have each averaged 61 points.
The Bulls will miss Bjorn Basson in the tour opener but could be welcoming back the likes of Dewald Potgieter and Deon Stegmann, and here’s hoping we get to see the flyer Sampie Mastriet take the field.
Head to Head
The Bulls have lost all seven of their away matches to the Blues, with the most recent being a 32-17 defeat in 2010. Prior to that, in 2008, they had lost 23-21, the only time they have come within ten points of their opponents while on the road.
In looking ahead to the game, it’s clear that the Blues generally struggle in New Zealand, having lost to their last four visiting teams, with the most recent being the 13-28 eliminator defeat to the Crusaders in 2012.
On the other hand, this Bulls side showed enough in their win over the Stormers to suggest that perhaps last week’s outing was just a bad day at the office. They have the pack to disrupt the Blues game plan and tactically they will be looking to put a relatively inexperienced Blues team under pressure to see how they handle it.
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