The Vodacom Bulls travel to Port Elizabeth to take on the Southern Kings on Saturday night and with the home team on a high, a cracking match is on the cards.
The Bulls got their campaign back on track with a workmanlike six point victory over the Cheetahs last weekend. It was not the free flowing affair many had predicted but the Bulls always gave the impression they were in control, even when trailing by three points at the break. This is a game they would have earmarked for a bonus point victory when they scanned the fixture list pre-season, but there is no chance the Kings will be taken lightly given how they have confounded their critics to date. The Bulls have a few injury niggles but welcome back Bjorn Basson into the match 22, welcome news as they are still firmly in the race for the South African Conference.
The Kings are in great spirits having finished their tour with a draw over the Brumbies and a win over the Rebels, both results achieved after the hooter. They base their game around committed defense but have shown that when they do get the ball in hand they can be decisive on attack. This match will be their fourth at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium having beaten the Force before losing to the Sharks by 9 and the Chiefs by 11, both games where the bookies were expecting them to lose by 15 points or more. The selectors have opted to bring Captain Luke Watson straight into the back of the scrum and into the starting line-up as he returns from injury and it will be interesting to see if this has any effect at all on team dynamics.
This will be the first meeting between the sides so there is no head to head form to study. It will be the Kings second game against local opposition having kept the Sharks tryless in the 12-21 defeat in week two while the Bulls have beaten the Stormers and Cheetahs but will play their first match against South African opposition on the road.
The Kings will be no easy touch in front of their excitable home fans but the Bulls should be too strong and they are expected to win the match. The key will be bringing the intensity of last week to the table and if they can do that, then a win by 10-20 points is expected.
The Kings are getting justifiable praise for performances to date but it is no surprise that their victories have come over the 2 weakest Australian teams, and the Bulls should be a totally different proposition. There must also be a chance that the Kings will start to tire having come off a four match tour and travelled home this week while the Bulls are playing their second match after a bye and should be the fresher of the sides.
The Kings have been given a 9 point start and while that looks about right, many are leaning towards the Bulls to beat the spread and win by a double figure margin.
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