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Super Rugby | Pretoria
15:05 (GMT) | 21-03-2015
  • 81
Join us again shortly when the Sharks take on the Chiefs in Durban
  • 80
The Bulls now have a penalty near halfway after a tip tackle on Pollard. Pollard converts the PENALTY and the Bulls lead 25-24. And it is FULL-TIME with Pollard booting it out after the restart! and the Bulls win
  • 78
The Force now have the ball in the Bulls half before a bad kick gives Kriel a chance to clear. The Bulls win the line-out in the Force half. It is turned over and Godwin comes away with it and they will get the penalty. Ebersohn goes for polls about 60 metres to give his team vital lead and he conerts the PENALTY to give the Force a 24-22 lead
  • 75
The Bulls, from a line-out on the Force ten-metre line form the maul before Du Plessis takes it up. The Force gets possession back and will have a line-out in the Bulls half after a Kriel clearance
  • 73
Ebersohn adds the CONVERSION and it is now 22-21
  • 72
The visitors form the maul again and the backline get involved before Cottrell takes it around the back and Godwin breaks through a tackle for the TRY!
  • 71
From the scrum on the Bulls ten-metre line, the Force win a penalty and Ebersohn finds touch five metres from the Bulls tryline. they form the maul before Ebersohn sends a cross kick. Play is brought back for a penalty and the Force opt for the line-out again
  • 69
The Bulls now go onto the attack from deep inside their half but Spies cannot hold onto the pass and the Force will get the scrum near the Bulls ten-metre line
  • 67
The Bulls form their famous driving maul as they make their way towards the Force 22. They get the penalty after their were hands in the ruck and Pollard has a chance to extend the lead. He converts the PENALTY and the Bulls lead 22-14
  • 66
After a brief kicking duel, Ebersohn finally finds touch and the Bulls will have a line-out on halfway. They get a penalty after McCalman dives onto Pollard and the Bulls will have an attacking line-out near the Force ten metre line
  • 63
The Bulls opt for the three points and Pollard converts the PENALTY to make it 19-14 to the Bulls
  • 62
Morahan takes the quick throw and the Bulls win a penalty. It is taken quickly by Van Zyl but Du Plessis loses it forward and the Force have scrum on their side of halfway. After a delay, Mathewson is put under pressure and the Bulls win the penalty.
  • 60
From the scrum the Force wins a penalty with Mellett collapsing. Ebersohn gives his team a line-out near the Bulls ten-metre line. They go to the midfield with McCalman before Ebersohn's kick is charged down. Godwin sends a kick down field and the home side clears with Pollard
  • 57
The visitors get the ball back from the restart and Morahan slips the tackle of Paige. They are now just outside the Bulls 22 but they hold on and the Bulls win the penalty. They cannot find touch and the Force get ascrum near their 22 after a loss forward from the Bulls
  • 54
The Force now have the ball just outside the Bulls 22 with a Godwin break but are met with good defence and play is brought back for penalty. But line up the kick to regain the lead for his team from about 25 metres out and he misses the penalty
  • 51
Pollard adds the CONVERSION and the Bulls lead 16-14
  • 50
The Bulls now with a two man advantage score their first TRY! through Marcel van der Merwe
  • 49
The Bulls go for the five metre line-out again with the Force under serious pressure. They set up the maul Faulkner is YELLOW CARDED now! for collapsing the maul
  • 48
The Bulls are now just five metres from the tryline after a powerful driving maul and they win a penalty. Pollard kicks out for another five metre line-out. They go for the maul again and it is another penalty Coleman gets YELLOW CARDED
  • 45
Burton adds the CONVERSION and the Force lead the Bulls 14-9
  • 44
Burton sets up the kick to take his team back in from and he hits the posts and Wykes scores the TRY! after ripping the ball from the Bulls player
  • 43
The Bulls, from a line-out near the Force ten-metre line go to the midfield with Spies bashing it up. Mellett carries it up before it is turned over in contact and the Bulls are under pressure in their own 22 and the Force win the penalty.
  • 41
SECOND HALF: Pollard gets the second half under way!

Half Time

  • 40
The home team forms a maul before Serfontein is nearly through in the Force 22, but he holds on and the Force win the penalty. The Force lose the line-out and the Bulls win the penalty with Mafi caught with hands in the ruck. Pollard misses the penalty and at HALF-TIME it is Bulls 9-7 Force
  • 38
From the untidy line-out the Force comes away with the ball and the Force make their way into the Bulls half. The home team gets the ball back before Paige sends a high ball and Godwin sends a chip and gathers but the Bulls get a penalty after Godwin holds on and Pollard finds touch between the Force;s 10 metre and 22
  • 36
The Bulls now have possession in the Force half and they win another penalty after McCalman has his hands in the ruck and Pollard gives his team a line-out in the Force's 22
  • 33
Pollard line up the kick and converts the PENALTY and the Bulls lead 9-7
  • 32
The Force go to Burton from the scrum and he makes some metres in the Bulls half. But the home team wins a penalty in their own 22 and Pollard finds touch near Force's 10-metre line. The Bulls go wide from the line-out and Strauss makes some big metres towards the Force 22 and they win a penalty with the tackler not releasing
  • 30
The Bulls form a driving maul on halfway but they cannot use it with Paige searching for it and the Force get the ball back in the form of a scrum on halfway.
  • 28
From a scrum in their own 22, the Bulls clear through Pollard with an excellent kick. The Force run it back and Brache is in plenty of space. The Bulls win a penalty after an offside play and Pollard gives his team a line-out near halfway
  • 26
The home teams loses the ball forward after trying to reclaim the restart and the Force now have a scrum near halfway. After a few resets they go to the midfield before Godwin and Brache break through a couple of tackles, but McCalman loses the ball forward in the Bulls 22
  • 23
The Bulls, from the scrum, gives away the penalty after they were looking dominant, but it was illegal binding by Marcel van der Merwe. Burton lines up the kick about 45 metres out but he pulls it away to the left and the score remains 7-6
  • 20
Morahan is full of running toady and takes the ball up to halfway before it is lost forward and the Bulls will get a scrum just on their side of halfway.
  • 18
The Force now have the ball just inside their own half before Mathewson sends a high ball. The Bulls return a kick by Pollard. Morahan runs it back and fins some space before it is kicked down field and the Bulls are under pressure in their own 22. Pollard clears and Ebersohn attempts a drop kick but its well wide
  • 15
Pollard now has the chance to close the gap with a penalty kick about 40 metres out. He converts the PENALTY and it is 7-6
  • 13
Burton adds the CONVERSION and the Force lead 7-3
  • 12
The Force now from a scrum deep in the Bulls half go wide with Godwin taking the ball up and Adam Coleman finds a gap and is through for the TRY!
  • 9
The Bulls win another penalty at the line-out and Pollard will kick for polls about 60 metres out o the angle. He gets the PENALTY over and the Bulls lead 3-0
  • 8
The Force now go wide from the line-out and they win the penalty. Mathewson takes it quickly and sprints in the Bulls 22 before a loose pass goes straight into touch. The Bulls, from the line-out, wins the penalty after Du Plessis is played in the air and Pollard finds touch five metres on the Bulls side of halfway
  • 6
The Bulls, from the line-out in the Force 22, opts for the driving maul and they bulldoze their way forward before they are called back for obstruction. The Force have a line-out near the Bulls ten-metre line after a good kick by Ebersohn
  • 4
The Force opt for a driving maul but they lose it forward and the Bulls get a scrum on their ten-metre line. After a reset the Bulls put on the pressure with a big shove and they get the penalty. Pollard gives his team a line-out in the Force 22
  • 2
The Bulls take it up from the kick-off before Paige sends a high ball. McCalman takes the ball up and Ebersohn sends a high ball which goes to far. Paige gives the Force a line-out near the Bulls 10 metre line
  • 0
KICK-OFF: Force flyhalf Sias Ebersohn gets the game under way!
  • -10
The Force have averaged more time in possession than any other side this season (16 minutes and 32 seconds).
  • -15
The rain has subsided a bit at Loftus Versfeld ahead of the game.
  • -20
In the regular season, the Bulls have won their last 15 at home to Australian sides, last losing in February 2007; however that defeat was inflicted by the Force.
  • -30
Welcome to live coverage of Super Rugby with the Bulls taking on the Force at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
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  • 9 Ivan van Zyl
  • 8 Marco Van Staden
  • 7 Thembelani Bholi
  • 6 Roelof Smit
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  • 4 Rudolf Snyman
  • 3 Trevor Nyakane
  • 2 Adriaan Strauss
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  • 23 Duncan Matthews
  • 22 Manie Libbok
  • 21 Andre Warner
  • 20 Shaun Adendorff
  • 19 Jason Jenkins
  • 18 Frans van Wyk
  • 17 Lizo Gqoboka
  • 16 Jaco Visagie
  • 15 Dane Haylett-Petty
  • 14 Marcel Brache
  • 13 Curtis Rona
  • 12 Billy Meakes
  • 11 Alex Newsome
  • 10 Peter Grant
  • 9 Michael Ruru
  • 8 Isireli Naisarani
  • 7 Matt Hodgson
  • 6 Ross Haylett-Petty
  • 5 Adam Coleman
  • 4 Matt Philip
  • 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau
  • 1 Pekahou Cowan
  • 23 James Verity-Amm
  • 22 Jono Lance
  • 21 Ian Prior
  • 20 Richard Hardwick
  • 19 Lewis Carmichael
  • 18 Shambeckler Vui
  • 17 Francois Van Wyk
  • 16 Anaru Rangi
  • 3 Tetera Faulkner
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Preview: S15 Round Six, Part Two

Thu, 19 Mar 2015 23:06

The stage is set for two days of high drama in the Super Rugby arena, as we take a look at Saturday and Sunday's matches.

The stage is set for two days of high drama in the Super Rugby arena on Saturday and Sunday, with the presence or absence of several big-name players the main attraction.

Star flank David Pocock will return to the spotlight for the Australian conference leaders, the Brumbies, against the defending champion Waratahs.

In contrast All Black superstar Sonny Bill Williams will be missing when the Chiefs take on the Sharks this weekend.

The Sharks also suffered a setback, with Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit ruled out for three months after knee surgery this week.

However, it is the decision of the Sharks to not rest key Springboks Marcell Coetzee, Patrick Lambie and Cobus Reinach that caused the biggest stir in the Republic.

Saturday's drama starts when the seven-time champion Crusaders, 10th on the standings after just two wins from four starts, host the 11th-placced Cheetahs (also two wins from four starts) in Christchurch.

We then cross the Indian Ocean to South Africa, where the seventh-placed Bulls (two wins from four starts) host the Western Force (12th, with just one win in five outings) in Pretoria.

The Sharks (sixth, with two wins in five starts) are then up against the Chiefs (fourth, just one loss in five outings).

Sunday's only game is the big all-Australian derby - where the defending champion Waratahs (eighth after recording just two wins) and the table-topping Brumbies (four wins in five outings) go head-to-head in a match that is an early wallaby trial.

We look at Saturday and Sunday's matches!

Saturday, March 21

Crusaders v Cheetahs
(AMI Stadium, Christchurch - Kick-off: 19.35; 08.35 SAST; 06.35 GMT)

The Crusaders, notoriously slow starters, will be without one of their most iconic players, Richie McCaw when the dangerous Cheetahs arrive in town.

McCaw, who has been replaced as openside flank by Matt Todd, is being rested up so he can be fresh when the Crusaders arrive in South Africa next week - where they will face the Bulls in Pretoria and the Sharks in Durban.

Coach Todd Blackadder made no secret of the fact that McCaw is being held back to be unleash in the Republic.

"That was part of the plan for both Richie and Matt," he said of the decision to rotate the two flanks, adding: "Both wore worn out a couple of weeks ago, so it's just purely rotation."

McCaw's absence coincides with the Cheetahs' famed poacher Heinrich Brüssow, who will start his first game of the season - after recovering from concussion-related symptoms he suffered while playing in Japan.

The Cheetahs, who haven't won in Australasia since their successful 2013 tour, have managed just one win outside Bloemfontein in their last 11 matches on the road. That victory was in Round One this year, when they beat the Sharks in Durban.

The Crusaders, who won just one of their first three matches, looked to be showing signs of improvement when they dismissed an underwhelming Lions team 34-6 last week.

However, their coach, Blackadder, felt they played nowhere near their true potential.

"I still think we have got some work to do," the coach said.

The Cheetahs, who lost their last two outings after winning in rounds one and three, will have to improve their defence and cut down on the high error count if they are to stop the slide that has set in, in recent weeks.

Recent results:
2014: Crusaders won 52-31, Bloemfontein
2012: Crusaders won 28-21, Christchurch
2011: Cheetahs won 33-20, Bloemfontein
2010: Crusaders won 45-6, Christchurch
2009: Cheetahs won 20-13, Bloemfontein
2008: Crusaders won 55-7, Christchurch

Prediction: The Crusaders have won five of their last six at home, with four of those wins coming by more than 20 points. In contrast, the Cheetahs have lost 10 of their last 11 games away from home, including the last five outside of South Africa, averaging 39 points conceded per game during those five matches. The New Zealand side has conceded more tries (nine) than they have scored (eight) so far this season, however, at home they have scored five tries and conceded just two. The Crusaders have beaten the fewest defenders on average this year. They have evaded just 11.8 would-be tacklers per game. The Cheetahs have conceded 29.8 points and three tries per game on average this season; no team has averaged more in 2015. The Cheetahs do have a realistic chance of an upset, but then they will need to be on top of their game. Anything less than 100 percent will not be good enough. Heinrich Brüssow versus Matt Todd is going to be a key head-to-head battle. The Crusaders may just have enough in the tank to sneak a win by less than seven points.


Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Kieron Fonotia, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 David Havili
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Johannes Prinsloo, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Rayno Benjamin.

Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Kane McBride (New Zealand), Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Wratt (New Zealand)

Bulls v Western Force
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 17.05; 23.05 AWST; 15.05 GMT)

The Western Force - despite having suffered four straight losses - do not fear the Loftus Versfeld factor and are willing to broadcast their confidence to the world.

History also seems to suggest they are a team that always push the Bulls to the limit, with the biggest home win by the team from Pretoria a 10-pointer (36-26) two years ago.

In fact in 2007, the year the Bulls won the first of their three titles, the Force scored an upset (30-27) victory at Loftus.

Force scrumhalf Alby Mathewson this week said are "quietly confident" of causing another upset.

"It's not like we're worried about playing in Pretoria or anything like that," Mathewson old the media from the team's base in South Africa.

"We are confident we can go there and do the job. Confidence in the group is still high. We still believe in what we're doing and how we do it.

"It's just about getting rid of those little inaccuracies."

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is well aware of the threat posed by the visitors, but felt his team - fresh from last week's bye - will be able to maintain the momentum they built through the victories over the Cheetahs and Sharks in their last two outings.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies was a bit more cautious in his approach.

"We always seem to be in tight matches against each other," he said of a rivalry in which the biggest winning margin - home and away - was 28-15 victory by the Bulls in Perth in 2010, the year that they won their third title.

"The trick for us will be to play the big moments better and to execute whenever we create scoring opportunities."

Ludeke said he had been impressed by the way his charges turned their fortunes around after the home defeats in the opening weeks.

"The impressive thing was the way the players changed and their accuracy suddenly changed, then the belief came, and with that the momentum came as well," Ludeke said.

"We would like to continue with what made us a dangerous side before the break, getting into the right areas, converting that opportunity, accuracy on defence and squeezing opportunities and hopefully winning that field position battle."

Recent results:
2014: Force won 15-9, Perth
2013: Bulls won 36-26, Pretoria
2011: Force won 26-21, Perth
2010: Bulls won 28-15, Perth
2009: Bulls won 32-29, Pretoria
2008: Force won 15-14, Perth

Prediction: In the regular season, the Bulls have won their last 15 at home to Australian sides, last losing in February 2007; however that defeat was inflicted by the Force. The Force have averaged more time in possession than any other side this season (16 minutes and 32 seconds). The Bulls have the best ruck success rate this year (96 percent). The Western Australia side have the worst tackling success rate this season, making just 83 percent of their tackles so far in 2015. The Force has also averaged the fewest clean breaks this season, making just 4.2 per game. The Bulls, along with the Brumbies, have averaged the most points per game this season (28); this is due in part to their goal-kicking success rate in Super Rugby this season (86 percent). Handré Pollard is the second-highest point-scorer so far this season (72) and has so far averaged the most points per game of any player (18). In the Bulls' last match against the Cheetahs, Pollard joined an exclusive club of just nine Super Rugby players to score at least a try, a conversion, a penalty-goal and a drop-goal in the same match. The other players in this club are Carlos Spencer (1996), Andrew Mehrtens (1998), Glen Jackson (2001), Andre Pretorius (2003), Morne Steyn (2008), Kurtley Beale (2008), Quade Cooper (2011 & 2013) and Johan Goosen (2014). It may not be a run-away win for the Bulls, but it is difficult to see the Force cause an upset, given their poor form. The Bulls should win by between 10 and 15 points.


Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.

Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (captain), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins/Guy Millar, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Solomoni Jnr Rasolea.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Pro Legoete (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Sharks v Chiefs
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 19.10; 06.10 Sunday, March 22 NZDT; 17.10 GMT)

The focus during the build-up to this game has been mostly on which players are in and who was out.

Sonny Bill Williams has failed to recover in time from his concussion issues and has been ruled out, while fellow centre Tim Nanai-Williams has flown home to New Zealand with a fractured finger.

The Sharks lost Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, who will spend the next three months on the sidelines, after undergoing knee surgery.

But the real drama involved the Sharks Springbok trio of Marcell Coetzee, Patrick Lambie and Cobus Reinach '- who will all feature in this vital match, despite a request from the Bok coach and the South African Rugby Union that they do not feature in more than five consecutive matches.

This will be their sixth successive outing.

The off-field issues aside, the Sharks know they are in for a testing encounter against a Chiefs team that ended the Stormers unbe4aten run last week.

"The Chiefs' backline has shown they can score a lot of tries," Sharks assistant coach Sean Everitt.

"The most important thing for us is stopping them from getting turnovers, that is where they are really strong and that is where they have scored the majority of their tries from."

Even without big names like Williams-times-two, they can still fall back on All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden to weave his magic.

"We are a talented group ourselves," Everitt said, adding: "We have internationals in our backline - we have Cobus [Reinach] and Pat [Lambie] and obviously Frans [Steyn] and JP [Pietersen] as well as Odwa [Ndungane] and Lwazi [Mvovo] who have all played international rugby."

The Chiefs fought back to end the Stormers' unbeaten start to the season with a 28-19 win last weekend and have won on four of their seven visits to Durban.

However, the Sharks' stuttering season took a turn in the right direction last week with a bonus point win over the Cheetahs.

Recent results:
2013: Chiefs won 37-29, Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 37-6, Hamilton (Final)
2012: Chiefs won 18-12, Durban
2011: Chiefs won 15-9, Hamilton
2010: Chiefs won 19-18, Durban
2009: Sharks won 22-15, Hamilton

Prediction: The Chiefs are aiming to win on consecutive weekends in South Africa for just the third time; a feat they last managed in April 2012. The Sharks' Marcell Coetzee is the joint top-try scorer this season, and the top- scoring forward after crossing the whitewash four times in five games. The Chiefs' James Lowe has made the most clean breaks (11) in Super Rugby this season. Nobody else is yet to hit double figures. The Hamilton-based side has averaged the most offloads per game (18) this season.  Sonny Bill Williams has made 13 of those offloads and the most of any player in the competition so far. The Sharks will be without Super Rugby's top line-out winner this season, Pieter- Steph du Toit, who had won (28) and stolen (four) more than any other player so far this year. This is going to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend, both in terms of the quality of the rugby and the intrigue of the encounter. It is a tough call to make, but we feel the Sharks' curve is on the up and they will edge an arm-wrestle by less than 10 points.


Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Waylon Murray.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Johan Bardoul, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Tom Marshall, 23 Hosea Gear.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Sunday, March 22

Waratahs v Brumbies
(Allianz Stadium, Sydney - Kick-off: 16.05; 05.05 GMT)

This is going to be a Wallaby trial, whether the coaches say so in public or not.

Top of that list of head-to-heads is the Michael Hooper versus David Pocock openside battle, when the latter eventually is released off the replacement bench.

How much time Pocock is given will be crucial in the Brumbies. drive to cement their top spot on the standings and keep the Waratahs at an arms-length in the race for top spot in the Australian conference.

The Brumbies lead the overall standings after five games, while the Waratahs have had a difficult start to their title defence losing two of their four outings.

The Waratahs' shaky defence faces another test in Sydney, with the Brumbies having scored a tournament-best 19 tries in their surge to the competition lead.

Coached by Waratahs' Michael Cheika's newly-appointed Wallaby assistant Stephen Larkham, the Brumbies have also conceded only three tries in five games this campaign.

"The Brumbies are a very well drilled team," the Waratahs' injured hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau said.

"They do everything well and our focus on Sunday will be on playing consistently throughout the whole match and delivering a full 80-minute performance, which we haven't managed yet."

He is supported in this view by wing Rob Horne, who will be vying for a place in the Wallaby side with Brumbies wing Joe Tomane.

"They're going extremely well," Horne said of the table-topping visitors.

"They've got a style that is working for them at the moment and they always finish off games when they get into winning positions."

Returning to their home ground for the first time since round one, Horne said that he and the rest of the team were keen to play an entertaining brand of rugby in front of their supporters.

"It's nice to finally have a game at home, especially being a Sunday, and hopefully we can turn it on in front of a hostile home crowd, Horne said.

"We always try to play attractive rugby, no matter what the conditions, but it would be great if the track was dry and we can put on an impressive display."

Sunday's game will be the first time the two sides have met since the Waratahs ended the Brumbies campaign in 2014, when they knocked them out in last year's semifinal in Sydney, 26-8.  

Recent results:
2014: Waratahs won 26-8, Sydney (semifinal)
2014: Waratahs won 39-8, Sydney
2014: Brumbies won 28-23, Canberra
2013: Waratahs won 28-22, Sydney
2013: Brumbies won 35-6, Canberra
2012: Brumbies won 19-15, Sydney
2012: Brumbies won 23-6, Canberra

Prediction: The Waratahs have won eight of the last nine meetings between these rivals in Sydney and have limited the Brumbies to no more than eight points in three of their last four wins during that run. No side has averaged more points (28) or tries (3.6) scored per game this season than the Brumbies, who have also conceded the fewest (10.4 and 0.6 respectively). The Waratahs however have averaged more carries, metres, clean breaks and defenders beaten than any other side this season. The Brumbies have allowed their opponents fewer metres and clean breaks than any other team this season, conceding 330 metres and 3.6 clean breaks on average per game. The ‘Tahs have conceded more turnovers, and won fewer in defence, than any other side this season. Nic White has been directly involved in six tries so far this season (two tries, four assists), more than any other player in Super Rugby this year. The Brumbies can be beaten, after all, they were knocked over by the Chiefs in week two. However, it will take a special effort and coach Michael Cheika's attention is being split between the Waratahs and the Wallabies - with the results speaking for themselves. The Brumbies should win this, but it will be by less than 10 points.   


Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 David Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements - from: Hugh Roach, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Sam Lousi, Mitchell Chapman, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Jono Lance, Peter Betham.

Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Scott Sio, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Jean-Pierre Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 David Pocock, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper, Stuart Berry (both South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub

Compiled by Jan de Koning

Statistical information provided by Opta Sports

Mc article hougaard force630

Bulls edge Loftus scrap

Sat, 21 Mar 2015 16:52

The Bulls battled their way to a 25-24 victory over the Force in a scrappy encounter at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls battled their way to a 25-24 victory over the Force in a scrappy encounter at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The visitors outscored the Bulls by three tries to one, but the accurate boot of Handre Pollard yielded six penalties which was enough to get the Pretoria side over the line in the end.
The Force suffered a fifth defeat in a row after starting the season with a win at title-holders and fellow Australians Waratahs, but the Perth outfit can take several positives from the game.
They came agonisingly close to becoming the first Australian side to win a Super Rugby league match at Loftus since 2007 after taking a two-point lead two minutes from time.
They conceded only seven points when reduced to 13 men for nine second-half minutes when lock Adam Coleman and prop Tetera Faulkner were yellow-carded for infringements.
And they outscored three-time champions the Bulls by three tries to one with the impressive Coleman, skipper and lock Sam Wykes and centre Kyle Godwin dotting down.
Centre Luke Burton kicked two conversions, but missed three attempts and was deprived of another chance when scrumhalf Alby Mathewson opted to run an early kickable penalty.
Ebersohn, one of two South Africans who started for the Force with another coming off the bench, slotted the other conversion and a late penalty.
Defeat left the Force 13th on the combined standings with only the Reds and the Blues beneath them.
Torrential pre-match rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning, left the pitch soft and greatly reduced the crowd.
The Bulls were first to strike when Pollard landed a penalty from his own half, but the Force responded with the first try as lock Adam Coleman burst through to thunder in under the poles.
Another two Pollard penalties saw the hosts take the lead back, and they went into the half-time break 9-7 up after a very disjointed first half with few attacking opportunities on either side.
The Force took the lead back early in the second half when captain Wykes forced his way over from close range, but they were struck a double blow when Coleman and tighthead prop Faulkner were shown yellow cards within a minute of each other.
With just 13 Force players on the field the Bulls were finally able to score their first try through prop Van der Merwe who burrowed his way over.
Another two Pollard penalties took the Bulls' lead out to 22-14, which meant that the Force would have to score twice in the last 15 minutes to snatch a win.
The visitors pressed hard and were rewared when centre Kyle Godwin stepped through a gap between two props to score and reduce the deficit to just one point.
Ebersohn landed a penalty from his own half to give the Force the lead with just minutes left, but Pollard responded with one of his own to seal victory after he had been speared into the ground by Steve Mafi.
Man of the match:  There were not many candidates in a scrappy game but our award goes to Handre Pollard whose accurate goal-kicking was crucial for his team.
The scorers:
For the Bulls:
Try: Van der Merwe
Con: Pollard
Pens: Pollard 6
For the Western Force:
Tries: Coleman, Wykes, Godwin
Cons: Burton 2, Ebersohn
Pen: Ebersohn
Yellow cards: Adam Coleman (Force, 47 - Repeated infringements at the breakdown), Tetera Faulkner (Force, 48 - Cynical infringement, pulling down a maul)
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.
Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (captain), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Solomoni Jnr Rasolea.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha (South Africa), Pro Legoete (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Adam Coleman (12min)
Handre Pollard (51min)
Handre Pollard (9min), Handre Pollard (15min), Handre Pollard (33min), Handre Pollard (63min), Handre Pollard (67min), and Handre Pollard (80min)
Adam Coleman (48min) and Tetera Faulkner (49min)
VENUE Pretoria
REFEREE Nick Briant