Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretoria - Bulls captain Victor Matfield is predicting a high-scoring game against the defending Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld this weekend and warned his teammates they will need to be at their best if they are to keep their impressive record at Loftus Versfeld intact.
According to the supersport.com website, the Bulls have only lost three times in the past two seasons in Super Rugby at the ground and have a long history of success against the Chiefs that stretches back to 2001 – the last time the New Zealanders could win at the famous ground.
But with back to back titles behind their names and a solid start of three wins out of four, the Chiefs will arrive as favourites to win, and will want to put their shock loss to the Western Force behind them as quickly as possible.
This, according to Matfield, makes them even more dangerous this time around.
"So far this year they’ve been good, they’ve only lost one game.
"It will be bad for us because they will be a bit sharper this week, I don’t think they were at the top of their game last week.
"In the other three games they played they were very good," Matfield said.
"We’ve done our planning, we’ve got the plans to go out and be successful but it is getting tougher every week.
"We played the Sharks, one of the top form sides in the competition and now the defending champions"
The games between the two sides have traditionally been open affairs, with high scores and loads of tries the order of the day, and this weekend the Bulls expect nothing different.
For this they give credit to the Chiefs, who they say play a brand of rugby that simply makes it easier to play open rugby.
"If you talk about high-scoring games, you’re right.
"When South African sides play, there is a lot of kicking, and teams almost don’t want to give opportunities in their own half, while when you play New Zealand sides they want to score tries," Matfield explained.
"They go out there and play.
"When they play, they give you opportunities to play as well.
"When you see two New Zealand sides play each other, it is high scoring games as well.
"It is very different than when two South African sides play each other, and you have to plan for that, because when they get momentum, the chances are good they will score a try or two, so you need to score tries as well.
"It’s nice for us, we want to go out in every game and we want to score tries.
"Hopefully they will give us some opportunities so that we can have a go.”
With the Bulls only scoring eight tries in their first five games, they are hungry to cross the tryline more, but Matfield’s conclusions about South African sides may have something to do with that.
The Bulls have faced just one overseas team – the Blues – this season in between several local derbies.
"If you look at them, they are the team that kicks the least in the competition.
"They don’t just give you the ball, they hold the ball for a lot of phases.
"They’re also the team that have given away the least turnovers, although they keep the ball a long time.
"This means they’re very accurate in what they are doing.
"For us firstly, we need to not give them broken field ball, if we give it to them, it must be on our terms.
"Secondly we need to create opportunities for ourselves.
"We can’t just go out there and defend.
"We can’t go out there and make 200 tackles and just 50 carries, we need to do things for ourselves as well on attack to make them defend as well."
And if they can do that, then the Bulls will continue their good run against the New Zealand side.
But they know the stakes are high and mistakes result in points.
But the positive attitude is refreshing, and should make for a great game this weekend.
Some key facts about the clash
• The Bulls have averaged the fewest metres (317) and defenders beaten (11.6) in the competition this term. They also opt to kick the ball more often than any other side having averaged 33.6 kicks from hand per game. Conversely, the Chiefs have averaged the highest gain in Super Rugby six rounds in (512m).
• The Chiefs’ scrum success rate (94%) is the best in the competition so far, but their lineout is the worst (70%).
• The Chiefs are the only side yet to concede a try from a possession that originated from within their opponents’ half.
• The Bulls have won four of their last five against the Chiefs but did suffer defeat in their most recent meeting in 2012.
• That run of wins for the Bulls included a 61-17 win in the 2009 final. Only once have they ever scored more points in a Super Rugby match (93-3 vs Reds in May 2007).