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Bulls v Lions - Teams and Prediction

URC ROUND NINE CATCH-UP MATCH: Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White admits that the Lions’ style of play could make life difficult for his team in their United Rugby Championship clash in Pretoria.

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The two Gauteng teams head into Saturday’s URC fixture after two weeks of European rugby in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

It’s also the only Round Nine match this weekend as the other teams completed their games in the final weekend of December.

Both teams will have a lot to play for.

A victory for the Bulls could see them leap from sixth place on the log to possibly third or fourth place.

A win for the Lions, if they deny the hosts a bonus point, will see them overtake their counterparts on the table.

Despite still having some trouble with consistency, the Lions are viewed by many as a team on the up and White has been a keen observer of their growth.

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“I think they have been growing and growing.

“It is difficult to play against them because they have a great ability to switch from attack into unstructured [play] and they are not scared to have a go at that.

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“They are a group of players that want to prove something.

“It’s like a heavyweight boxer that grows up in the Bronx. He is going to be tougher than the one that lives in Hollywood.

“They have built this team together and they have got lots of guys who have come through together.

“Some of them see this as an opportunity to take the next step up and that is why they are so difficult to play against.

“They look as though they are desperate to do well and it is always dangerous when you play against a team like that.

“To take a [second-string] team like they did to Montpellier and only lose 3-13 gives you a lot of confidence.”

The Lions will head into the match as underdogs, but they tasted victory in Pretoria in the URC not too long ago.

The Johannesburg side recorded a 29-25 victory at Loftus Versfeld in March last year and White said the result will still be fresh in the minds of both teams

He also listed some of those improvements in the Lions’ game since that last outing against them.

“Their scrum is strong, their line-out is strong and defensively they have gone up a gear.

“We always know they can attack – they don’t mind giving the ball a lot of air and move you around the field.

“They beat us last year and I am sure they will talk about that just like we do.

“Whether we are playing Bordeaux or the Lions, we want to play as well as we can.

“All coaches want to see the little pieces coming together as the tournament gets deeper and deeper into the play-offs.”

Meanwhile, Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen said his team is in a good space despite their 28-38 defeat to Ospreys in the Challenge Cup last Sunday.

“It’s been a six-day turnaround for us, so it’s been quite a short week preparation-wise,” said Van Rooyen.

“It was important for us to seek alignment and clarity as quickly as possible.

“A short week also forces us to make quick decisions and be effective in training.

“Our synergy has been good this week. We had a good review of what went well and what didn’t work last week.”

Van Rooyen and his troops will take confidence into Saturday knowing that their last trip to Loftus was a successful one. However, the Lions boss understands the physicality that comes with a local derby.

“We know that if you’re not physical against the Bulls, they’ll get momentum,” he warns.

“With momentum, comes quick ball and offloads. So, we know we are going to have to front up physically as well as be aware of their kicking game and set-piece play.

“The focus for us defensively was to work hard, set quickly and make decisions from there.”

See below for Saturday’s prediction!

Prediction

@rugby365com: Bulls by 13 points.

Teams:

Bulls: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Sebastian de Klerk, 13 David Kriel, 12 Harold Voster, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Mpilo Gumede, 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (captain), 4 Deon Slabbert, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Cameron Hanekom, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Devon Williams, 23 Marcell Coetzee.

Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Richard Kriel, 13 Henco van Wyk, 12 Marius Louw (captain), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Sanele Nohamba, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Emmanuel Tshituka, 6 Hanru Sirgel, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 JP Smith.
Replacements: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Morgan Naudé, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Darrien Landsberg, 20 Izan Esterhuizen, 21 JC Pretorius, 22 Jordan Hendrikse, 23 Erich Cronje.

Date: Saturday, January 27
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa), Morne Ferriera (South Africa)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

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