The Vodacom Bulls will be looking to halt the Cheetahs five match unbeaten streak when they meet at Loftus on Saturday.
The home team are coming off a bye having returned from tour with one victory and three losses, and while a week off does sometimes result in a loss of rhythm it appears to have come at a good time for the Bulls as a number of players are on the verge of returning from injury. This will be the third home game of the season having beaten the Stormers by 8 points in week 2 and the Force by 10 in week 3. There is no doubt that the Stormers win was the more impressive performance and a repeat of the lackluster showing against the Force would likely result in a loss against this Cheetahs side.
The Cheetahs season appeared to be heading into familiar territory with a narrow defeat at home to the Sharks followed by a big one away to the Chiefs. They have since embarked on a five match winning streak including three wins on tour and more recently wins over the Rebels and Stormers at home. They continue to play a very fast paced game, but they have worked hard on defense, which is far better than in 2012. Their set piece play, both in terms of getting their own ball and disrupting others, is also proving a useful weapon. They play the game at pace and this was evident in last week’s narrow win over the Stormers where the men from the Cape looked out of their feet in the second half.
Head to Head
The Bulls and Cheetahs have played out a few entertaining Super Rugby matches at Loftus and in four matches there have been 29 tries and an average of 52 points per game. The Bulls have won all four home matches by an average of 10 points. The Bulls record looks even better when taking matches in Bloemfontein into account and they have won all 9 games played between the sides by an average of 16 points with matches averaging 60 points each.
Super Rugby Prediction
There is no doubt that the Cheetahs have moved from rank outsiders to dark horses in this competition, and the Bulls will need to up their game in the scrums, and forward dominance is a must in order to starve the Cheetahs of possession.
The Bulls are the favourites to win this game for a number of reasons. The first is their incredible record against the Cheetahs, winning all nine previous games. The second is that the Cheetahs must surely be fatigued going into their 8th consecutive week including four matches on tour which is huge. Thirdly the Bulls are returning from a bye and if they can put the Cheetahs under pressure then the cracks may well begin to show. Finally the Bulls are at home and they definitely don’t like losing at Loftus in front of their home ground. The betting markets are in agreement with the Bulls at 9/20.
A home win by 5-12 points is on the cards. It will be fast paced and entertaining but the Bulls have the firepower to make it 10 Super Rugby wins without defeat against the Cheetahs.
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Please note at time of writing the odds are correct and are subject to change.