Bulls v Pumas - Teams and Prediction
FRIDAY PREVIEW: With just three rounds remaining the battle for the Currie Cup top spot between the Bulls and Cheetahs is reaching an intriguing conclusion.
The Bulls kick off the weekend’s fixtures on Friday when they host the Pumas in Pretoria.
The defending champions, currently lead the standings on 42 points from their eight wins from 10 games, which is just one point more than the Cheetahs, who have won each of their nine matches so far in this campaign.
For the Pumas, who are currently in fifth on 20 points, their play-off credentials will be heavily tested when they head to Pretoria.
In their last outing two weeks ago, the Pumas suffered a 17-23 defeat to a determined Western Province, a result which handed the Cape side their first win in eight matches.
While the Bulls had to pull out all stops to beat a stubborn Lions 43-37 in Pretoria.
In five previous meetings between the sides from Pretoria and Nelspruit – four of which were staged at Mbombela Stadium – the Bulls emerged victorious four times, while the Lowvelders managed just one win – a 44-14 success last January.
The team in light blue jerseys won the previous fixture between them at Loftus Versfeld, played last June, by 32-27.
Speaking ahead of the encounter Bulls coach Gert Smal has braced his troops for a very ‘ tough and hard’ encounter against the Pumas.
“It will be a very tough and hard game, ” Smal said adding: ” But that goes both ways.
“They [Pumas] want to qualify for the semifinals and we want to see if we can book a home final.
“The Pumas is a very good team. They use their maul as an incredible attacking weapon and at the breakdown they are solid.
“I think at the end of the day they play a good game all around and we have to be strong and fit in every facet.
He added: “This week we really want to put in an 80-minute performance.
“The replacements have to make the difference, especially in the closing minutes and we will have to look at our discipline. ”
The Vermaak show
The Bulls have the luxury of boosting their side with top-class players in the form of Morne Steyn and Embrose Papier.
Bulls’ new signing, Ruan Vermaak, will make his debut for the side.
“This is the best team we could field for this game,” Smal said.
“A lot of the preparation behind the scenes is also for the United Rugby Championship.
“I am also looking forward to seeing Vermaak in action.
“I am hopeful he will deliver a great game.”
No Bulls B-team
Pumas flyhalf Tinus De Beer, who missed the 17-23 loss to Western Province in a Round 11 clash in Nelspruit a fortnight ago due to illness, returns to the starting line-up.
De Beer starts at flyhalf and Eddie Fouche moves to inside centre – giving the Nelspruit team a powerful axis.
“We desperately need to win this game because we need to reach the play-offs,” Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse said.
“I think we should have won that game against WP. Unfortunately, we made some minor mistakes and Eddie’s kicking let him down.
“But we are ready to get some points at Loftus Versfeld.
“A win would be ideal – points out the game is important, especially looking ahead.”
Stonehouse admitted it going to be a very difficult task facing the star-studded Bulls.
“The Bulls already have a home semifinal in the bag. I don’t think they will rest on their laurels.
“When you look at the team, they have great players and you can’t really label it as a ‘B’ team.
“They have the likes of Bismarck du Plessis, Steyn, Lizo Gqoboka and Stedman Gans. However, we cant focus on that.
“We heading to Loftus Versfeld with our strongest team and hopefully we can claim a rare and much-needed win.”
*Article continues below…
@rugby365com: Bulls by 12 points
Bulls: 15 James Verity-Am, 14 David Kriel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Marco Janse van Vuren, 11 Richard Kriel, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Reinhardt Ludwig, 6 WJ Steenkamp, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Lizo Gqoboka (captain).
Replacements: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Kloppers, 19 Raynard Roetz, 20 Stephan Smith, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Juan Mostert, 23 Tharquinn Manuel
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Sebastian de Klerk, 13 Alwayno Visagie, 12 Eddie Fouche, 11 Tapiwa Mafura, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Willie Engelbrecht (captain), 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Shane Kirkwood, 4 Deon Slabbert, 3 Ignatius Prinsloo, 2 Eduan Swart, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Llewellyn Classen, 17 Dewald Maritz, 18 Simon Raw, 19 Darrien Landsberg, 20 Francois Kleinhans, 21 Giovan Snyman, 22 Aliqhayiya Mgijima, 23 Jade Stighling.
Date: Friday, May 27
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, Local appointment
TMO: Quinton Immelman