Bulls could soar up table
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – It will need a few other weekend results to go their way, but three-time Super Rugby champions the Bulls could climb several notches on the overall log if they beat the Stormers in their Loftus derby on Saturday (19:10 kick-off).
The two matches played on Friday in the latest round didn’t do the currently 10th-placed Bulls’ playoffs hopes too much damage.
It probably suited them that ambitious, defending title-holders the Chiefs saw off one the many “middling” teams in this year’s race, the Blues, 32-20 in Hamilton as the result now leaves the Aucklanders only a point clear of the Bulls after an equal tally of matches.
A perfect Friday for Frans Ludeke and his charges would probably have been the Rebels beating the rather more high-riding Hurricanes in Melbourne; that didn’t occur but at least they comfortably denied the New Zealanders a four-try bonus point in the 25-15 outcome.
That result hoisted the ‘Canes to fourth on the overall ladder ahead of the majority of other weekend fixtures, but it did serve as a reminder that even they aren’t exactly out of sight of the Bulls, who only play games on South African soil for the rest of the ordinary season – they are six points ahead, also after 11 of their 16 fixtures.
If the Bulls can cash in on the depleted, makeshift look to the Stormers’ match-day squad for the ever-spicy “north v south” Pretoria clash, by winning with a bonus point, they would surge to 29 points.
That would place them level on points with the presently fifth-placed Waratahs, the only team with a bye this weekend, albeit that the Bulls will have played two games more by then.
A pretty reasonable possibility after the completion of the weekend roster is the Bulls sitting seventh -- just outside the playoffs zone and a healthy hike of three places for them -- provided that compatriots the Cheetahs do them a favour by beating the Force in Bloemfontein and the under-achieving Reds (still very useful-looking on paper) see off the Crusaders on Sunday at their Brisbane home base.
Far less likely, alas, is the fast-fading Lions beating the Highlanders (presently eighth) in Dunedin, so the NZ south islanders should end the round still ahead of the Bulls even if Victor Matfield and his troops do dispose of the Stormers.
The down side of the Chiefs’ victory over the Blues on Friday, from a South African point of view, was that the Waikato outfit have slipped alongside the log-leading Sharks on 35 points, the only comfort being that the Sharks – awaiting a seismic Saturday fixture against the Brumbies in Canberra – have played one game less as things stand.
It illustrates the urgency of the Durban-based team maintaining winning ways, if they possibly can, on their four-match Australasian tour.*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing