Champions Cup, Round Four - Teams and Predictions
FRIDAY PREVIEW: The Bulls, who are currently in sixth place in Pool A of the Champions Cup, will line up against Lyon at Matmut Stadium de Gerland in the opening match of the weekend on Friday, where they need to bank a bonus point to secure their place in the top eight on the standings to advance to the play-offs.
However, victory in expected freezing conditions could see them finish in the upper echelons of the table depending on the other results, which could secure the Bulls an easier play-off-match, possibly at home in Pretoria, so they will have all the motivation they need to register a good win.
With two victories in three matches and the team coming off an impressive 39-28 victory against the Exeter Chiefs last weekend, the Bulls will place a big emphasis on winning momentum.
The Pretoria side will draw confidence from the fact that they won the last encounter between the sides 42-36 at home, but the narrow losing margin is expected to inspire the hosts.
The Bulls have made a few changes which include Johan Goosen getting the No.10 jersey and Cornal Hendricks coming in at No.12.
There is a new front row in the form of Simphiwe Matanzima, Bismarck Du Plessis and Francois Klopper, while Nizaam Carr will lead the team from No.8.
Ruan Vermaak will pair up with Janko Swanepoel in the second row.
The Bulls’ bench is also packed with some quality players in the form of Elrigh Louw, Zak Burger, Chris Smith and Lionel Mapoe.
Bulls backline coach Chris Rossouw said that the rotation of the players was done to look after the players and ensure that their welfare remains a top priority.
“Basically, it is part of player welfare and rotation because Ruan [Nortje] has played every minute of rugby of every match he has played, since the beginning of the season.
“The same with Harold [Vorster], since making his return from injury has played a lot of rugby, so it is important to manage him well too.
“This is all part of the rotation plan that we have had since the beginning of the year.
“It’s important when in a group, to have your name in the team sheet as a player that can play these games. And when you get the chance, look to execute the job in the first 60 minutes.”
Rossouw also touted his side to face a staunch challenge from their opponents.
“We believe that our team can do the job for us. We know it will be extremely difficult.
“Lyon is a top side, I think they are in the top six in the French Top14. Saracens were stretched when they came here and so we know it will be a difficult outing.
“It is our first time in France and that is a new experience, it is extremely cold and that presents a great challenge for us but the guys are quite excited because they know that Lyon will pick their best side because they still have a chance of making it.
“In any game, a win is important for us but the most important thing for us is the process. I think in the last two games we managed the games quite well and that momentum is important for us.
“For us it will be how we handle that pressure and make sure that the lessons we have learnt over the last year help us manage the momentum of the game.”
Commenting on the weather conditions and the impact they will have on the game, Rossouw said: “It is obviously extreme, last week we played in 35 degrees (in Pretoria) and now in sub-zero conditions (in France). However, this is a challenge that over time we have come to embrace.”
In Friday’s other match, Leicester Tigers are at home against Ospreys.
Leicester are unbeaten and they are sitting in third position (13 points) with qualification to the knockouts secured.
The Ospreys on the other hand are in fifth with 10 points and they will just need a bonus point to secure their qualification.
Ospreys head coach Toby Booth said: “In this one we need to make sure we don’t give away anything for free.
“Welford Road is a tough place to go, and we’ll need to make everything count.
“Leicester are one of the form teams in Europe, as well as being English Champions, which means there’s a lot of things to overcome against a very good team.”
See below for Friday’s teams and predictions!
Friday, January 20:
Lyon v Bulls
(Matmut Stadium de Gerland, Lyon – Kick-off: 21.00; 22.00 SA time; 20.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Bulls by 11 points.
Lyon: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Josiah Maraku, 12 Thibaut Regard, 11 Ethan Dumortier, 10 Leo Berdeu, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Jordan Taufua (captain), 7 Patrick Sobela, 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Felix Lambey, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Guillaume Marchand, 1 Sébastien Taofifenua.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Hamza Kaabèche, 18 Paulo Tafili, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Theo William, 21 Mickael Guillard, 22 Liam Rimet, 23 Kyle Godwin.
Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 David Kriel, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Nizaam Carr (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Replacements: 16 Johann Grobbelaar, 17 Gerard Steenekamp, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Lionel Mapoe.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson (England) & Wayne Falla (England)
TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)
Leicester Tigers v Ospreys
(Welford Road, Leicester – Kick-off: 20.00; 20.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Leicester by 14 points.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Harry Simmons, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Olly Cracknell, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 5 Cameron Henderson, 4 Ollie Chessum, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Charlie Clare, 1 James Whitcombe.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Dan Richardson, 18 Will Hurd, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Sean Jansen, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Charlie Atkinson.
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Joe Hawkins, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Jac Morgan, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Rhys Davies, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Dewi Lake, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Rhys Henry, 19 Huw Sutton, 20 Morgan Morris, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Keiran Williams, 23 George North.
Referee: Tual Trainini (France)
Assistant Referees: Adrien Descottes (France), Christophe Bultet (France)
TMO: Thomas Charabas (France)