Bulls v Lions - Teams and Predictions
MIDWEEK BRUISER: The rescheduled fifth-round Currie Cup Gauteng Derby between the Bulls and Lions in Pretoria on Wednesday will set the tone for a high-octane final stretch as the pool stage concludes this week and the top teams battle it out for home semifinals.
A victory for the Bulls – the only team with two games remaining – will catapult them into a favourable position to wrap up the pool stage as the top team for a semifinal and possibly a final in Pretoria.
Should they win this match they may need only a bonus point from their clash against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Sunday to guarantee them top spot on the log if Western Province – who are also on 35 log points, but with an inferior points’ difference – defeat the Sharks on Saturday.
The Lions, who edged the Sharks into third place on the standings thanks to a favourable points’ difference despite being tied on 33 points with the Durbanites, meanwhile, will throw everything at the men from Pretoria in their final round-robin match in the hope of putting them in line for a home semifinal.
Their fate, however, is out of their hands, as they will have to rely on the Sharks to defeat Western Province on Saturday with a fairly narrow points’ margin to possibly see those hopes materialise.
The match-ups between these sides have been balanced in the last few years, with each side winning four of their last eight Currie Cup games.
Interestingly three of the Bulls’ victories were in Pretoria, but with the team having last taken the field over three weeks ago, they will have to hit the ground running to work off the rust quickly against a side that is high on confidence after five successive wins.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has finalised his team for Wednesday’s Currie Cup clash after originally naming an extended squad of 28 players.
The Bulls have been battling a COVID-19 outbreak in their squad in recent weeks and Wednesday’s match will be their first since December 12 when they lost 29-32 to the Sharks in Durban.
Trevor Nyakane, Ruan Nortjie, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Marnus Potgieter and David Kriel are the only players who have kept their place in the start XV since that match against the Sharks.
“It’s been an interesting and challenging season to say the least, with the past two weeks probably being our most testing yet. We haven’t had a lot of time together following the isolation protocols, which doesn’t make it ideal going into a crunch game like this one,” White explained.
“Having said that, we’re just excited to be able to play again and get our campaign back on track.”
Experienced Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis, meanwhile, will run out for the Lions in one of three changes to coach Ivan van Rooyen’s starting team, replacing Wiehahn Herbst, while the other change in the forward pack is at flank, where Marnus Schoeman moves up from the replacements bench in place of Jaco Kriel.
In the backline, Burger Odendaal will add bulk to the midfield in place of Wandisile Simelane, who will make an impact off the bench.
“It’s a different week, I don’t think we have played two games in five days. I think the last time it happened for most of these guys was probably at Craven Week,” said Van Rooyen.
“There was a lot of learnings from the Pumas game. We spent the majority of the Monday just refreshing the bodies and to get a lot of teachings on what we want to do and what went wrong and what we want to work on.”
Last 10 Currie Cup outings
2013: Lions won 62-23, Pretoria
2013: Lions won 35-26, Johannesburg
2014: Lions won 41-13, Johannesburg
2014: Bulls won 36-26, Pretoria
2015: Lions won 36-28, Pretoria
2016: Bulls won 31-17, Pretoria
2017: Bulls won 54-22, Pretoria
2017: Lions won 36-33, Johannesburg
2018: Lions won 38-35, Pretoria
2019: Bulls won 31-26, Johannesburg
@rugby365com: Bulls by five points
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Marnus Potgieter, 12 Jay-Cee Nel, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jan Uys, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Arno Botha, 23 Tim Agaba.
Lions: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 André Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Carlü Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Wandisile Simelane, 23 Francke Horn.
Date: Wednesday, January 6
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 16.00 (14.00)
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Referees: Paul Mente, Morne Ferreira
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen
Additional source: SA Rugby
*Stats provided by Eddie Grieb