Super Rugby Unlocked, Round Seven - Teams and predictions
CELEBRATION TIME: Jake White awoke the slumbering giant and on Saturday his team will lift a trophy to celebrate the accomplishment.
It has been a decade since the heady days of their last Super Rugby success.
However, given they are ending a 10-year drought, Duane Vermeulen and his team will celebrate with as much gusto and gleefulness as Victor Matfield’s Bulls did in winning a Super 14 title in the Orlando Stadium back in 2010.
In the wake of the COVID-19-enforced cancellation of the Sharks versus Stormers match, no team is likely to overtake the Bulls.
The only thing that can, perhaps, put a spanner in the works is if the Pumas achieve the unthinkable and beat the Bulls by 43 points or more.
However, most compos mentis people will bank on a Bulls win.
“There will be a trophy handover and celebrations on Saturday,” Bulls coach and Director of Rugby Jake White told a virtual media briefing.
“We are going to enjoy it,” he said of the planned celebrations.
The Bulls believe they deserve their win, despite the cancellation of some COVID-19-affected games.
“You have to be resilient and be able to adapt,” White said of the curveballs thrown at teams this year.
“Let me tell you, it is great to win,” White said, adding: “We got bonus-point wins against the two teams closest to us on the standings [the Stormers and Sharks] and we beat them convincingly.
(Article continues below standings … )
“It is enjoyable to win and we all knew it was going to be a curtailed tournament.
“We needed to hit the ground running.
“I am not being arrogant, but we enjoy winning.
“It is something for us to celebrate.
“These players deserve the accolades they are getting.”
He said it means a lot to him to help end a decade-long drought at Loftus.
“I didn’t join this union just to finish off my career, or just get a job.
“I came here on the basis that this is a sleeping giant. We knew that when it wakes up it is going to be a powerhouse in World Rugby again.”
The Bulls skipper, Vermeulen, said it is nice to know that after 10 years the Bulls have won something again.
“However, we should look ahead to the great opportunities ahead and build towards that,” Vermeulen said.
“We will close one chapter this weekend, but there are many more chapters to follow in this story.”
(Continue below …)
The only other match scheduled for the weekend is the Cheetahs hosting Griquas in a central-union derby in Bloemfontein.
Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie, who spoke about the conditions and the chance of rain, said winning is vital after a fractured campaign.
After two early wins, including edging the Bulls, they had a game cancelled through COVID-19 and then had a bye.
They just did not manage to regain their momentum after that.
“We have spoken about where we are on the standings [fourth place] and what awaits us,”he said of the Currie Cup part of the season.
“We have now added this [Super Rugby Unlocked] encounter with Griquas to the six remaining game and said our Currie Cup season starts now.
“The points are being carried over, so it is vital that we get five points out of Saturday’s game.
“That is our mindset now. Our goal is to start with 17 points in the second half of the season, when we will play three of the four big guns at home [in Bloemfontein].
“Our goal is to be in the top two to have home ground advantage in the [Currie Cup] play-offs.”
Teams and predictions for Round Seven below video!
Saturday, November 21
Bulls v Pumas
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria – Kick-off: 14.00; 12.00 GMT)
This will be the first meeting between the Bulls and Pumas in Super Rugby Unlocked.
The Bulls have won their last three Super Rugby Unlocked games on the bounce, including a come-from-behind win against the Lions in their last fixture (Round Five).
The Pumas have led at half-time in two of their last three Super Rugby Unlocked fixtures.
However, they have managed to go on to win only once in that stretch.
The Bulls have conceded fewer clean breaks (3.4) and fewer defenders beaten (14.4) per game this Super Rugby Unlocked season than any other team in the competition.
Eddie Fouche (Pumas) has kicked 15/15 goals in Super Rugby Unlocked.
The Stormers’ Tim Swiel (6/6) is the only other player with a 100 percent success rate.
@rugby365com: The Bulls by 25 points
Head to head
Bulls: 15. David Kriel, 14. Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Theo Boshoff, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Willem Engelbrecht, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain), 4 Darrien Landsburg, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 HP van Schoor, 1 Morgan Naude. Replacements: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Ig Prinsloo, 18 Brandon Valentyn, 19 Daniel Maartens, 20 Ginter Smuts, 21 Ali Mgijima, 22 Tapiwa Mafura, 22 Liam Hendricks.
Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen
Cheetahs v Griquas
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 16.30; 14.30 GMT)
This will be the inaugural meeting between the Cheetahs and Griquas in Super Rugby Unlocked; both teams come into this game on the back of consecutive defeats.
The Griquas remain on the hunt for the maiden win in Super Rugby Unlocked.
However, their half-time lead against the Sharks in Round Six was the first time they’ve led at the end of either half of a game this season.
The Griquas have won 8.8 turnovers per game in Super Rugby Unlocked, the most of any team in the competition and more than twice as many as the Cheetahs (4.3).
The Cheetahs have gained 365 metres per game in Super Rugby Unlocked, the joint-most of any team in the competition (also Lions).
Griquas duo Adre Smith and Hendrik Luus have each won six turnovers this Super Rugby Unlocked campaign, the joint-most of any player in the competition.
@rugby365com: Cheetahs by 16 points
Head to head
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 Aidon Davis, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Carl Wegner (captain), 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Hencus van Wyk, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Cameron Dawson, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Teboho Mohoje, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 William Small-Smith
Griquas: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Carl Els, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Adré Smith, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Mox Mxoli.
Replacements – from: Monde Hadebe, Andrew Beerwinkel, Madot Mabokela, Ewan Coetzee, CJ Velleman, Theo Maree, André Swarts, Daniel Kasende, Bandisa Ndlovu, Sibabalo Qoma, Ashlon Davids.
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant referees: Griffin Colby, Paul Mente
TMO: Willie Vos
* Statistics provided by Opta Sport