The Vodacom Blue Bulls will have to be at their best if they want to withstand the MTN Golden Lions in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division at Loftus Versfeld, reports rugby365.co.za
The Vodacom Blue Bulls may be sitting pretty at the top of the Currie Cup standings, but they are already glancing nervously over their collective shoulders with trans-Jukskei rivals the MTN Golden Lions arriving in Pretoria on Saturday.
The men from Johannesburg were an intercept try away from an upset win against the Sharks last week, while the Cheetahs also scored a late winner against the Lions in Week One.
Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar feels it is not long before the Lions overcome those late lapses and turn their narrow defeats into victories.
In fact he suggested that second-half replacements could hold the key, as the Bulls have named three of their four Southern Kings imports on their bench this week - one-time Springbok hooker Bandise Maku, loose forward Jacques Engelbrecht and Bok midfielder Waylon Murray.
"The Lions will come out and they always play well, especially in the second half when they up the tempo, so it will help the team if they [the replacements] make a difference," Pienaar said.
Pienaar said he was looking for a much-improved performance from last week's scrappy 15-9 victory over Griquas.
"There were too many turnover balls, especially in the first half, and here and the scrums were also an issue for us," the Bulls mentor said.
"Our discipline cost us a bit and with that you are going to lose momentum, possession and territory.
"We have played well in patches this far and we now need to produce a more lasting effort."
Golden Lions counterpart Johan Ackermann, who is desperate for his team to get their first win of the season, spoke of the "strong culture" for the game that exists in Pretoria.
"When they put on that [light blue] jersey they are very motivated," the Lions coach told this website.
"They also have a lot of pride when they play at Loftus [Versfeld] - that is going to make it tough," he said, adding: "We will have to play very good rugby for 80 minutes if we want any chance to win."
2012: Blue Bulls won 50-29, Johannesburg
2012: Golden Lions won 32-23, Pretoria
2011: Blue Bulls won 21-18, Johannesburg
2011: Golden Lions won 36-27, Pretoria
2010: Blue Bulls won 24-21, Pretoria
2010: Blue Bulls won 32-18, Johannesburg
Prediction: The Blue Bulls were not given a snowball's hope in hell of winning against Western Province in the opening round and they managed a draw away from home.
Last week may have been scrappy and dour, but they men from Pretoria managed to get the result and sit at the top of the standings.
That says something of the young Bulls team. The Golden Lions will entertain, but most likely flatter only to deceive again. We feel the Blue Bulls will win by about 15 points.
Vodacom Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Morné Mellett. Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.
MTN Golden Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Robert De Bruyn, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Guy Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Lambert Groenewald, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Tiaan Meyer, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Lionel Cronje.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Tappe Henning with Andy Turner in training