Since 2003, the Vodacom Bulls have lost only seven out of 29 home matches against team from New Zealand (there was also on draw), but on Saturday they face the Hurricanes, the Kiwi side with the best away winning record against the Pretorians of all teams from the Land of the Long White Cloud.
The Hurricanes have beaten the Vodacom Bulls four times out of seven visits to South Africa for a winning percentage of 57.1% – higher than that of the Highlanders (50%), Crusaders (36.4%), Blues (28.6%) and Chiefs (25%).
And even though the Hurricanes have endured a bit of a roller coaster season this year, they are still very dangerous – from a South African point of view, only the Toyota Cheetahs, with 23 tries, have scored more tries than the Hurricanes’ 22.
“They are a very dangerous side when there is broken field and open play, so we need to make sure we dominate territory and possession and win the gain line battle,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
“We are in control of our own destiny at this stage and that is exactly where we want to be. This means that we are doing some things right, but we all realise that we are also not accurate enough in other phases.”
Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies said defence will be key: “We leaked some unnecessary tries last weekend and we are not happy about that. The Hurricanes are known for their fantastic attack, so we need a very disciplined and determined approach on defence.”
Playing in his 116th match at this level, Morné Steyn will equal the record for most appearances for the Vodacom Bulls in Vodacom Super Rugby, which is shared by Victor Matfield and Danie Rossouw.
Springbok scrumhalf Francois Hougaard will play in his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby match this weekend if he gets game time off the bench, while Bok lock Flip van der Merwe will play in his 50th match at this level for the Vodacom Bulls. He also played six matches for the Toyota Cheetahs.
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls: Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies (captain), Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Francois Hougaard, Louis Fouchè, Lionel Mapoe.
Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (captain), Tusi Pisi, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Karl Lowe, Brad Shields; Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush; Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Ash Dixon, Ben Franks. Replacements: Reggie Goodes, Ben May, Mark Reddish, Faifili Levave, Jack Lam, Chris Smylie, Tim Bateman.
Head to head (since 1998): Bulls won 7, Hurricanes won 7.
Tries: Bulls 32, Hurricanes 43
Average score: 27-25 to Hurricanes
Kick-off: SA Time: 19h10
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Attie Buitendag (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)