Vodacom Super 14

Bulls test resilience away

2009-03-19 06:53
Frans Ludeke

Wellington - The Bulls will put their unbeaten record on the line when they start a daunting Australasia tour against the Hurricanes in the key Super 14 clash this weekend.

With pressure mounting to be in a position to make the play-offs from a packed leader board, the sixth round also features the Waratahs and the Sharks looking for redemption after their first losses of the year last week.

The Waratahs play the embattled Crusaders in a repeat of last year's championship final, and the Sharks are in Perth where the Force will put away their customary blue and make a one-off appearance in pink.

The fourth-placed Blues play their nearest New Zealand neighbours, the Chiefs, in a critical New Zealand derby.

The Bulls' best return from a road trip was in 2007 when they won three from five and went on to win the championship.

One of the two losses was to the Hurricanes, who have won their last three encounters including a 50-22 drubbing last year and are rated by Bulls coach Frans Ludeke as the form New Zealand side.

"We are preparing ourselves for a huge challenge," he said, ahead of Friday's match.

Ludeke has made one change from the Bulls' last outing against the Stormers with Derick Kuun coming in for Chiliboy Ralepelle.

The Hurricanes, in fifth place but only four points behind the Bulls, have made two changes with hooker Andrew Hore making his first start for nearly five months and prop John Schwalger coming off the bench.

The Waratahs will be looking to atone for last week's loss to the Brumbies when they play the title-holding Crusaders, who are struggling this year.

The Waratahs, with Al Baxter playing his 100th game, are defending a 10-match home unbeaten streak while the Crusaders are looking to snap an unprecedented four-match winless run.

Last week the Crusaders looked a much more potent unit with Stephen Brett re-installed at flyhalf, but his dismal kicking performance -- missing 13 possible points -- proved crucial in their 23-all draw with the Force.

The Force will be hoping a change of colour means a change of fortune at home on Saturday when they turn out against the Sharks wearing pink as part of a fund-raiser for the Western Australia Breast Cancer Foundation.

The Durban-based Sharks, nearing the end of their away trip, suffered their first loss of the season to the Reds last week.

They won their previous two games in New Zealand and a win over the Force will make them only the second South African side to win three matches in the road.

The Blues, who leaped ahead of the Hurricanes into fourth place last week when the Wellington franchise had the bye, head into Chiefs' territory to pit a strong attacking capability against a stout defensive unit.

The Blues so far this year have scored 18 tries, seven more than the Chiefs, but the Chiefs team have allowed in eight fewer tries than the Blues.

The Brumbies are in South Africa to play a Lions side in disarray with forwards coach Leon Boshoff suspended.

Boshoff is accused of verbally abusing players after last weekend's thrashing by the Stormers when the Lions led 12-0 at one point before losing 18-56.

The Brumbies, only three points off the top four, have problems of their own with skipper Stephen Hoiles possibly out for six weeks with a medial ligament injury.

The remaining match of the weekend sees the 12th placed Otago Highlanders host the bottom-placed Cheetahs.


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