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    Bulls cash in on Reds’ woes?

    2012-03-20 10:44

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – Whilst it could be fatal for them to suddenly believe they have an easy task on their hands, the Bulls have a wonderful opportunity to cash in on the backline chaos currently being experienced by Super Rugby champions the Reds.

    These teams meet at Loftus on Saturday (17:05), in a keenly-awaited match-up between the 2011 winners and the hosts, who earned the title in both of the two years before that.

    Tuesday’s news that ace left wing Digby Ioane has been suspended for five weeks for a dangerous tackle on the Sharks’ Marcell Coetzee last weekend comes at the worst possible time for the Queenslanders, who are under pressure to grab a win from their South African leg after frittering away a 17-0 lead to lose 27-22 in Durban.

    It leaves a team who pride themselves in their ball-in-hand fluidity at sixes and sevens behind the scrum, where they are currently left for the Pretoria clash with only inspirational scrumhalf Will Genia of the trio of “X-factor specialists” who masterminded their maiden trophy success last year – slippery flyhalf Quade Cooper is a long-term casualty recovering from a cruciate ligament injury, and Ioane’s suspension adds to the woe.

    In addition, capable No 10 contenders for Loftus in Ben Lucas and Mike Harris have both flown home after suffering hamstring injuries in the rain-lashed defeat to the Sharks.

    Wallabies flyer Ioane had just begun to rediscover his best form in the new season against John Plumtree’s charges: Jim Tucker of The Courier-Mail in Brisbane rightly noted that “until that point (the tip-tackle on Coetzee) Ioane had played his best and most involved spell of the season”.

    Some consolation for the Reds is that Genia looked pretty close to lethal every time he touched the ball in Durban, and his personal battle with Springbok livewire Francois Hougaard (back after his own short ban for a dangerous tackle of his own) could be a game-swayer on Saturday.

    But with the Bulls showing an encouragingly clean bill of health after their bye weekend, it would seem they have a golden opportunity to exploit the Reds’ unenviable staffing disorder and claim their first win over these opponents in three clashes.

    They did win the last Highveld meeting, 33-20 in 2009 when the Bulls went on to claim the trophy.

    But since then the Reds have won twice on the trot in Brisbane: 19-12 in 2010 and 39-30 last season.

    The last-named game was deceptive in that the Reds would have ensured more daylight had Cooper’s place-kicking matched the near-customary excellence of Morne Steyn that day – the home team ran in six tries to three.

    But twinkle-toed Cooper was hugely influential in all other facets, so his absence this time would have come as a relief to the Bulls even before latest developments surrounding Ioane.

     You would imagine that even if Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is reluctant to say so, he will know deep down that the Reds have lost a fair bit of their “sting” with Ioane and others now joining Cooper on the sidelines ...

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

    Read More On:  bulls super 15 john plumtree rugby

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